How I "Accidentally" Discovered the Largest

Archaeological Complex in South America

please excuse the horrible, wind-blown audio in this video

Some  years ago, I had been working on the investigation of an amazing archeoastronomical discovery. My initial accidental discovery was made while flying from Quito to the Amazon jungle one day.


As my flight passed over the Eastern chain of the Andes mountains on a particularly clear day, I looked out the window and noticed massive man-made patterns all over the mountaintops for several kilometers in all directions. I nearly pinched myself to make sure I wasn’t dreaming. I thought to myself, “How could this be? In all my years of tromping around Ecuador, I have never heard of this site. This is huge!”

Archaeological Complex in South America explore

some of the most important sites of the complex, with Quito in the background

I immediately began calculating the approximate location of this site and how I could reach it. Eventually, I figured that this mountain was located somewhere between the small towns of El Quinche and Cangaua.


As several weeks past, the memory of what I had seen from the air kept tugging at me to organize a ground trip in search of the ruins. I went and purchased topographic maps of the general area and then began mapping out the approximate flight path that I had been on when I discovered the bizarre patterns.


Eventually I came up with two possible mountains where the ruins must be located. The mountains are located side by side so I figured that I would try my first choice and if that didn’t work, I would return again a week later to try the second mountain.


I arose very early on a Saturday morning, packed the food, water and gear that I had organized the night before and headed out into the darkness. I took several buses, eventually arriving in the small pueblo of Cangaua. This was the nearest settlement to my target location.


It was just beginning to get light in the eastern sky. Snow-capped Cayambe Mountain loomed in front of me like a huge monster watching my every move.


I took a quick position with my map and compass and then began the slow, arduous hike up the side of the mountain. At first I passed several remote farms, animals and cultivated fields. Soon however, all signs of human presence thinned out and then completely disappeared. I was on my own, heart pounding, alone, breathing hard, anticipating what might lie ahead.


Hours past, the wind picked up, the temperature fell and the views grew ever more amazing.


Just before noon I found myself in frigid, hurricane-like conditions, approaching 4,000 meters of altitude. I briefly thought about abandoning my quest and returning at some other future time, dressed for winter. Something kept urging me on though and I kept climbing.


Finally, when I couldn’t take the extreme conditions any longer and in need of rest, food and water, I spotted a hill nearby where I could get some shelter from the freezing wind. I crawled over a steep embankment and dropped down onto a convenient, sheltered ledge. I then tore into my backpack, grabbed my food and water, and was soon enjoying one of the most spectacular views I have ever seen in my life.


Eventually my gaze returned closer to my sheltered ledge. I noticed a straight line of rocks off to my left. “How strange,” I thought. Then I stood up and looked around. I was immediately shocked and astounded.


I was actually standing inside four ancient walls and was completely surrounded by dozens of other ancient rooms and walls. The steep embankment that I had just crawled over in search of shelter was actually the main outside wall of large-sized ancient community of some sort. “I have arrived!” Or so I thought.


I spent an hour or so surveying my surroundings, taking measurements and photographing interesting details of this unexcavated site. Then it hit me.


I remembered that I had actually seen the original distinctive patterns on the top of a mountain, not on a lower ledge where I was currently exploring. I looked further up the side of the mountain above me. I immediately noticed a series of several concentric stone rings, at least 100 meters in diameter! I began climbing again.


Soon, I arrived at the concentric rings. My guess is that the rings represent the sun, the most sacred and center of pre Inca and Inca spiritual beliefs. I was probably looking at an important ceremonial site. Obviously, hundreds of thousands of rocks, or maybe even millions, had gone in to the construction of this site. It was magnificent. I then continued further up the mountain.


In less than an hour I arrived at the top. There I found a massive city of ancient, broken down walls enclosing many dozens of rooms of all shapes and sizes. I could hardly believe my eyes. “Now, I have arrived!”


As I searched the horizon off in the distance I could see the city of Quito far below. I could also see the well-known ruins of another important pre-Inca, astro-archaeological site called Rumicucho many kilometers away down in the valley.

South America explore,Stan Grist

here you can see one of the sites beside my left arm

Interestingly, I could see that the ruins of Rumicucho are located directly to the north-west of my new-found archaeological site. It is also located directly between me and what is known as the Sacred Inca Mountain of the Sun, very near the equator. There is a perfect visual communication and alignment between all of these sites. That realization of the alignment was to really start the ball rolling for numerous, subsequent discoveries.


Just when I thought it couldn’t get any better, I turned around in a complete circle on top of the mountain. As I did, I saw more ruins and ceremonial sites on the tops and sides of adjacent mountains. I was awestruck. My day was complete. And what a day it had been!

South America explore,adventure

this site contains nearly a hundred different rooms

Unfortunately I didn’t have enough time to closely investigate the virgin ruins of the ancient city on top of the mountain, the largest of all. I had to begin my return journey so that I could arrive back in civilization before dark. The trip down the mountain was long and painful. I was so happy to arrive on wobbly legs back in the town of Cangaua, and not with a minute to spare as complete darkness had just set in.

Archaeological Complex in South America explore Ecuador

the complex is spread out over an immense area



Eventually, I learned that this was the largest archaeological complex in all of South America. It had originally been built by the Cayambe culture. It took at 17-year war with the Incas before the Cayambes finally admitted defeat.

South America explore,adventure

Stan leading a small expedition of adventure tourists around the most important sites



This entire complex lies almost completely virgin, unstudied and unexcavated. Besides me once leading a small expedition up there, the site is almost never visited by anyone.

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