SAN SALVADOR – Forty-two years after its discovery, El Salvador’s Joya de Ceren archaeological site is a time capsule that contains finds and information regarding the pre-Columbian people who lived there, a site that has been preserved, as in Pompeii, by a volcanic eruption.
The main virtue of the site is its high level of preservation, which has enabled new generations to come to know and understand the architectural and agricultural development of the local inhabitants in the Mesoamerica of the seventh century A.D.
“Joya de Ceren provides evidence about the daily life of the late classic period. The findings are encapsulated in time,” Michelle Toledo, a Salvadoran archaeologist who directed the most recent excavations at the site, told EFE.
Toledo said that among the latest discoveries are the “burial with ceremonial characteristics of a person,” who, according to the examination of the remains, “did not die because of the eruption.”
“The position of the skeleton indicates that it was a person of short stature, who was in a fetal position and whose body was surrounded by pieces of obsidian,” a glassy material used to make spearheads, knives and arrows, the expert said.
Toledo said that the “prehispanic grave ... gives us more evidence about a burial pattern. It is possible that there could be more (burials) under the structures already discovered.”
Besides the skeleton, there were human tracks and evidence of furrows (crop rows), which, according to previous research, “could be corn or cassava.”
A tour of the archaeological park is a journey through time that shows us what the day-to-day life was like for the people who inhabited these lands.
The site also contains the remains of sophisticated houses made out of adobe (mud) and “bajareque” (a mixture of straw and branches), a meeting house, a ceremonial center and a “temascal” – a place to take a steam bath.
“I would think that Joya de Ceren has been here since A.D. 600 ... At least three generations lived (here) and the average life span was 35 years,” the archaeologist said.
Joya de Ceren was discovered “by chance” in 1976 during work by a company that built silos for grain storage.