Ceren, the “Pompeii of the Americas”

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - Commentary

by Daniel Nardini

For over 30 years, archeologists, especially from the University of Colorado, have been excavating a major site of a former Mayan village in El Salvador. Called Ceren, the archeological site was once a thriving Mayan village during the Mayan Classical period (250-900 A.D.). What makes it unusual is that it was smothered in volcanic ash from nearby Loma Caldera volcano in about the year 660 A.D. Everything was so carefully preserved that this site has been dubbed the “Pompeii of the Americas.” And an amazing site it is. Buildings, storage facilities, family homes and implements, and even food like corn cobs have been carefully preserved. The site tells all about how the common people lived in Mayan society.

Unlike the major ancient Mayan sites, we find no pyramids, no giant plazas, no temples, and no paraphernalia of the Mayan ruling elite in Ceren. We only find the things and facilities of how common people lived, worked, and governed themselves. This is important because for the most part we had really little to no knowledge of how the common people lived. The ancient site of Ceren is helping archeologists fill in these gaps. Even though the site was founded well over 30 years ago, excavation is an on-going project and this site may still turn up things we did not know before. While the Mayans did leave a good deal of writing behind, there are still many questions and mysteries about the ancient Mayan civilization that we can only guess at now. How the common people lived in the overall Mayan civilization still remains a major question. Hopefully, Ceren can start to help answer some of these questions.

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