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Joya de Cerén
Posted by: HoboSylvain | 2014-07-10 20:30:07 | Joya de Ceren, La Libertad, El Salvador
Keywords: pre-hispanic, Ruins, UNESCO
Most of you have heard about the eruption of the Vesuvius in Italy that instantly converted Pompeii of ashes and preserved life as is for nearly two thousands years. But how many of you know that there are cities like that in America too? I didn't, but I visited one today.

We easily forget that the Americas were inhabited by dozens of great civilizations more than a millennia before the Spaniards set foot on this side of the ocean.  That fact plus the omnipresence of volcanoes here in Central America (just the small country of Guatemala counts more than 30 volcanoes, about half are active) makes it understandable that such phenomenon could exist here too.

One of the buildings uncovered.

Joya de Cerén is such a time capsule. 

It was covered by ashes and other volcanic products around year 590.  The exact date of the catastrophe is unknown because the memory of that city disappeared ages ago.  No one knew about that city.  Since it was covered by dirt and not eaten by the jungle, it could not have been found by the various waves of explorers.  In fact, it was discovered totally by accident... in 1976!

Hopefully, it was discovered through a digging for a government project, so it could be immediately analyzed.  Because the piece uncovered then was in such perfect condition, everyone on the site thought it was fairly recent, no one suspected it had been there for almost 1 400 years!  If it had been a private development, who knows what could have happened to that major discovery.

Only about 10 building have been unearthed so far.  Sonar and satellite imagery revealed the presence of many more.  Based on the current findings, we suspect the major ash event that put a blanket of over a metre (3 feet) all over the city occurred in Fall because of the maturity of plants and grains found.  All objects of the daily life were still in their original location, indicating the city was evacuated in a hurry, but unlike in Pompeii's case, no human remains were found (yet).

The fact the site is exactly was it was when the tragic event took place more than 1 400 years ago (no looting) and the one that it represents a unique time capsule into the daily life of the pre-Columbian civilizations easily won this location a place amongst the World Heritage sites, the only one in El Salvador.

It's not a grandiose visual site to visit (unlike Chichen Itza for example), but what can be seen has a profound meaning.

A multi-building complex, in what seems to be have been a common area.

Related posts:
What I've seen in Mexico
San Agustin site
Stone spheres of the Diquís valley


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