According to youremailverifier, Joya de Ceren is the most important Mayan site in El Salvador. It was buried under a layer of ash after a volcanic eruption around AD 600 and was only discovered centuries later in 1976. The ruins today offer an insight into the everyday life of the rural residents from the 6th century.

Joya de Ceren ruins: facts

Official title: Ruins of Joya de Ceren
Cultural monument: village settlement structure from the 6th century with 70 previously excavated buildings made of adobe and wood on large platforms; Finds of utility ceramics, petrified corn, a domestic duck and the teeth and bones of dogs and mice
Continent: America, Central America
Country: El Salvador
Location: Joya de Ceren, northwest of San Salvador
Appointment: 1993
Meaning: Insight into the everyday life of a rural community in the 6th century.

Ruins of Joya de Ceren: history

600 Downfall of the city
1976 first time discovery
1978, 1981 and 1989 systematic excavations

The Pompeii of America

El Salvador, the smallest Central American country, can hardly keep up with its neighbor Guatemala when it comes to significant archaeological sites. Nevertheless, in the “land of smiles”, as El Salvador is also called, there are a number of archaeological sites of great scientific interest. The »Jewel of Ceren« is only 32 kilometers from the gates of the capital San Salvador, along the famous Panamericana, which crosses the American continent from north to south. This place, located in the fertile Zapotitan Valley, is surrounded by corn plantations that are nourished by the waters of the Río Sucio and Agua Caliente.

Ceren is a very unusual place: unlike the famous ruins of Tikal in Guatemala, there are no awe-inspiring step pyramids, no spacious palaces or – as in El Tajín, Mexico – impressive ball playgrounds to attract attention. Rather, what awaits the visitor are the remains of residential houses and administrative buildings built on platforms of a small rural community. But that doesn’t make the whole thing any less interesting.

Ancestors of the Maya, who still populate Central America today, lived in this place until 600 AD, before the eruption of the nearby volcanoes completely destroyed the city. Scorching hot volcanic rock and lava were thrown into the air, and a four to six meter high layer of ash buried the city: the “Pompeii of America”. While the residents were probably able to flee beforehand – it is believed, since no human remains have been found so far – their life’s work was preserved by the hot ashes for centuries. Not only have the walls been well preserved, but also the utensils, the plants and the animal carcasses.

The site was discovered by chance when, in 1976, an excavator operator came across remnants of adobe walls while doing grading work. In the belief that it was a question of walls that were only a few decades old because of their good condition, the work was even continued at the beginning. It wasn’t until two years later that the archaeologist examined Payson Sheets from the University of Colorado closer to the site and began the systematic excavations: »I had a spatula in my hand and was looking for Coke cans, plastic scraps and bits of tin so that I could classify the walls as modern structures. Instead, I found a prehistoric vessel. Well, I thought to myself, the former residents must have enjoyed such things. I was actually not aware of what I had discovered (…). But when I unearthed more prehistoric vessels, it seemed obvious to me to date them using the radiocarbon method. ”Decoding could begin, but was interrupted by the twelve-year civil war, so that further excavations could only take place after it had ended.

Today, a large part of the uncovered building remains, including dormitories, kitchens, storehouses, sweat houses and a large meeting house, have already been identified. Some had thick walls and walls that were additionally reinforced. The bedroom and kitchen rooms were separated, which is not always the case even today in the simplest huts of poor farmers. The house gardens with maize, bean and chilli plantings were also preserved, from which the researchers can draw conclusions about the eating habits of the residents. In addition, medicinal plants such as the maguey plants were found, from whose strong fibers ropes are still produced today. In the museum right next to the entrance to the ruins, the finds, including petrified corn on the cob and perforated stones used as mortars, are on display.

Joya de Ceren Ruins (World Heritage)

Joya de Ceren Ruins (World Heritage)
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