Ancient burial site unearthed in El Salvador
July 03 2013 11:03 PM
* Historic pieces found by Salvadorian experts at the archaelogical site.
* Historic pieces found by Salvadorian experts at the archaelogical site.

A recent archaeological finding in El Salvador, which included six complete pots from the late Classic period and human remains next to two vessels placed as a ritualistic offering and apparently at least 1,200-years-old, has thrown light on ancient Mayan settlements in the region.

In an interview, the director of Archaeology at the Salvadoran National Cultural Heritage Office, Shione Shibata, said that the discovery in western Nuevo Lourdes, in Colon, about 20km from San Salvador, was historically important because the distribution of the remains indicated they formed part of a village.

The finding was first reported by workers at a residential compound construction site who were digging a ditch to lay down water piping and came across pieces of broken pottery and obsidian shards. They halted work immediately: they knew they had found an archaeological site and had to call in the experts.

Shibata, who is Japanese but has acquired permanent residency in El Salvador, said that archaeologists who went to Nuevo Lourdes immediately noted that the area had been affected by the eruption of the El Boqueron or Quezaltepeque volcano.

 “There was a layer (of volcanic ash) 1m thick covering what was later exposed,” he explained. Work began in late May to remove the earth and study the archaeological remains.

Archaeologists also found evidence of a sugarcane field located below the first section that was excavated and uncovered. The field, measuring about 500sq m, is apparently at a depth of between 2 or 3m.

They found that under the first layer of ash there was yet another layer of ash that resulted from the eruption of another volcano, the Ilopango, now a lake. The Quezaltepeque and the Ilopango volcanoes are both on the rim surrounding the valley where the capital San Salvador lies.

Shibata explained that the human remains (whose sex have yet to be determined) in the burial site, the adobe wall and the field were strong evidence that ancient Mayan settlers had specifically chosen to live in the Nuevo Lourdes region, which is near two rivers, the Sucio and the Lempa. “Based on these findings we can understand scientifically how and where people lived, not only because of the proximity of the rivers,” Shibata said.

“What is interesting is that in the Terminal pre-Classic period people had settled there to farm the land and when the volcano eruption hit, it buried those populations,” he said.

“Then, hundreds of years later people returned, perhaps because it was near to the river, a source of water, to make their lives, and another volcano eruption occurred and now yet again there are people who want to live there,” Shibata said.

He said the discoveries correspond to the Terminal pre-Classic period. “There is much discussion about when the Ilopango volcano eruption occurred ... (However) It has been established that it occurred between 400 and 536 AD, but the pieces at the burial site found are attributed to the late Classic period: between 600 and 900 AD.”

Regarding the way the Nuevo Lourdes finding was reported to the National Cultural Heritage Office, Shibata said that it was quite common for luck to play a role in archaeological discoveries in El Salvador.

He said that often, “by chance,” workers find something of major importance for the country, and then “by chance” a resident of the community reports it to the Cultural Heritage Office.

Although a small country, El Salvador has over 670 recorded archaeological sites, most of them belonging to the ancient Mayan civilisation. – DPA


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