Construction of a Community: Recent Findings from Ceren, El Salvador

Part of: Society for American Archaeology 80th Annual Meeting, San Francisco, CA (2015)

Archaeological research at Cerén continues to contribute to key questions within Mesoamerica and beyond regarding how quotidian practices both constructed and were impacted by the social and political landscape of this community. The fortuitous sudden burial of the site beneath meters of volcanic ash resulted in the preservation of structures, artifacts, a sacbe,and agricultural fields. This session explores the variety of data collected in the 2013 field season, with specific focus given to the exploration of the Cerén sacbe, associated artifacts, and paleobotanical discoveries. Additionally, various papers within the session situate Cerén in a comparative perspective with other research throughout Mesoamerica.

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  • Documents (9)

  • Common and Lima Beans (Phaseolus spp.) from Cerén: Wild and Domesticated Germplasm (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only David Lentz. Venicia Slotten.

    Archaeological investigations at Cerén, a Classic period Maya site in western El Salvador, have unearthed an abundance of carbonized bean remains, both Phaseolus vulgaris and P. lunatus. Surprisingly, the Cerén P. vulgaris bean remains were derived from both wild and domesticated populations. This find reveals that the Late Classic inhabitants continued to draw upon wild food sources even though they had clear access, as seen in the Cerén paleoethnobotanical record, to a full array of...

  • Digging Ceren: Rounding up the Unusual Methods in Mesoamerican Household Archaeology (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Nan Gonlin.

    The site of Cerén, El Salvador holds a unique place for Mesoamericanists conducting household archaeology. Its extraordinary preservation fuels the imagination like few other sites can. The fragile nature of this archaeological site requires hyper-alertness, combined with methods for properly extracting and preserving information. The material remains of this deep under-earth site come to light with only the most intensive of excavation methods, many of which are unlike those commonly used at...

  • Geostratigraphy, Volcanology, and Chronology at Ceren: Implications of Dating the Ilopango and Loma Caldera Eruptions (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Rachel Egan. Payson Sheets.

    Built upon a fine white volcanic tephra from the eruption of the Ilopango caldera and buried under tephra from an eruption of Loma Caldera, the Maya village of Ceren affords a unique opportunity to explore geostratigraphy, volcanology, and chronology in relation to vulnerability and resilience. The sheer volume and scale of the eruption of Ilopango caldera, known as Tierra Blanca Joven (TBJ), would have had decimated not only the Zapotitán valley in which Ceren is located, but also all of El...

  • Paleoethnobotanical Remains Associated with the Sacbe at the Ancient Maya Village of Cerén (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Venicia Slotten. David Lentz.

    Paleoethnobotanical research conducted during the 2013 field season at Joya de Cerén in El Salvador focused on the analysis of plant remains found on the surface and associated features of an ancient Maya sacbe (causeway) that were well protected beneath tephra deposited by the volcanic eruption of Loma Caldera around AD 660. Plant remains were retrieved from the sacbe surface, adjacent drainage canals, and agricultural fields on either side of the sacbe. Because the plant remains found in...

  • Sacbe Construction, Agricultural Production, and Community Organization in the Classic Maya Community of Cerén, El Salvador (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Christine Dixon.

    The exceptional preservation of the Classic Maya community of Cerén, El Salvador has afforded the opportunity to examine how one group of people constructed their built environment. The remarkably well- preserved site (public and domestic structures, earthen sacbe (road), agricultural fields, plant casts, and artifacts) greatly aids in our understanding of small-scale socio-political organization. This paper draws on data collected during the 2013 field season as well as earlier research. The...

  • A Variety of Cerendipitous Discoveries (2015)
    DOCUMENT Full-Text Payson Sheets.

    Research at the Ceren village archaeological site in 2013 and 2014 has made a variety of discoveries. The plant casts, made by pouring dental plaster into the voids, reveal much about agriculture in the middle of the rainy season some 1400 years ago. The maize plants were doubled over to dry the mature ears, but the Loma Caldera eruption occurred just before planting squash and beans. So what was that single mature squash plant doing in the milpa? What are the limits of preservation of weeds,...

  • What does their Storage say about Them? An interpretation of domestic storage practices at the Classic Period Maya village of Ceren (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Alexandria Halmbacher.

    Around A.D. 650 the Loma Caldera eruption entombed the Classic Period Maya village of Cerén in 4-6 meters of volcanic ash. This resulted in the exceptional preservation of structures, artifacts and botanical remains, providing archaeologists with a unique opportunity to study the household complexes and their related activities. However, much of the previous research concerning the households at Cerén has primarily focused on its economic activities. As a result, archaeologists have yet to...

  • Within and Between: A comparative discussion of Intra-site Variability and Hinterland Complexity at the sites of Yaxché, Yucatan and Cerén, El Salvador (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Céline Lamb. Scott R. Hutson.

    Long-standing research at sites like Cerén exemplifies the increased interest in rural households and settlements and the shift away from the elite-centric nature of many earlier projects in Maya archaeology. Our expanding knowledge of ancient Maya hinterlands has allowed us to consider the heterogeneity that these smaller settlements displayed and revise our western binary perspective of "urban versus rural". Recent investigations by members of the Ucí-Cansahcab Regional Integration Project...

  • Xanthosoma violaceum and the Maya Diet: Root Crop Use in Ancient Maya Agriculture (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Theresa Heindel.

    Research on ancient Maya agriculture has historically been focused on seed crop cultivation, but the recent discovery of a Classic period manioc field near the site of Ceren, El Salvador has shed new light on the possibility of intensive root crop cultivation by the ancient Maya. Another root crop, however, Xanthosoma violaceum (colloquially known as "malanga"), was also encountered in a household garden. Through the use of multiple lines of evidence, I have compiled a summation of malanga’s...