March 30, 2010

OAT El Salvador: Joya de Ceren

Unlike Copan in Honduras or Tikal in Guatemala, UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization) World Heritage Site Joya de Ceren ( is not an important Mayan religious or political center.  Instead, this is a small village buried under about 20 feet of volcanic ash ~600 AD.  All apparently escaped except a duck, some birds and a few mice.

The most exciting discovery here is the well-preserved domed temascal or "sweathouse".  These structures were used for bathing, childbirth and healing.
Much about the daily life of the ordinary Mayan has been learned at this site.  By taking casts of perishibles, the archeologists were able to identify crops grown here: Maize, Manioc, Squash, Beans, Chili, Malanga, Cotton, Agave, Achiote, Jocote, Cacao, Guava.

Oddly, no mention of the cashew that is growing well today.  We learned that although the cashew fruit is delicious, the cashew nut we know and love is poisonous until roasted.

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