Archaeological studies suggest that the valley of Quito and the surrounding areas have been occupied for some 10,000 years. The remains of ancient Palaeoindian peoples, nomadic hunters who used obsidian to make stone tools, have been found at various sites around town. During the subsequent Formative era (4500-500 BC), pre-Ecuadorean peoples began to settle in villages, till fields and make ceramics. One of the best-known formative sites of highland Ecuador is located in northwest Quito, in Cotocollao. Dwellings of the Regional Development period (500 BC-AD 500) can be seen in Rumipamba, also in northwest Quito.

Quito is named after the
, a kingdom of the Integration period (AD 500-1500) which was inhabited in pre-Inca times. Quitu remains have been found along the lower flanks of Pichincha from El Placer in the south to La Florida in the north. By the end of the 15th century, the northern highlands of Ecuador were conquered by the Incas and Quito became the capital of the northern half of the empire under the rule of Huayna Capac and
later his son Atahualpa. As the Spanish conquest approached, Rumiñahui, Atahualpa's general, razed the city, to prevent it from falling into invaders' hands.

The colonial city of Quito was founded by Sebastián de Benalcázar, Pizarro's lieutenant, on 6 December 1534. It was built at the foot of El Panecillo on the ruins of the ancient city, using the rubble as construction material and today you can still find examples of Inca stonework in the façades and floors of some colonial buildings such as the cathedral and the church of San Francisco. Following the conquest, Quito became the seat of government of the
Real Audiencia de Quito
, the crown colony, which governed current- day Ecuador as well as parts of southern Colombia and northern Peru.

The city changed gradually over time. The Government Palace, for example, was built in the 17th century as the seat of government of the Real Audiencia, yet changes were introduced at the end of the colonial period and during the republican era in the 19th and 20th centuries.

The 20th century saw the expansion of the city both to the north and south, first with the development of residential neighbourhoods and later with a transfer of the commercial and banking heart north of the colonial centre. In 1978, Quito was the first city to be declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In the 1980s and 1990s the number of high-rise buildings increased, the suburban valleys of Los Chillos and Tumbaco to the east of town were incorporated into a new
Distrito Metropolitano
, and a number of new poor neighbourhoods sprawled in the far north and south.

This is edited copy from Footprint Handbooks. For comprehensive details (incl address, tel no, directions, opening times and prices) please refer to book or individual chapter PDF
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