Production, maintenance, and exchange in a young Maya community: Ceren, El Salvador

Author(s): Payson Sheets

Year: 2016


What is now El Salvador was devastated by the Ilopango eruption, probably in AD 536. A small group of Maya immigrants founded the Ceren village in the uncontested landscape some three decades later. Only about four generations lived in and constructed the functioning community before it was buried by the tephra from the Loma Caldera eruption in about AD 650. Production and maintenance activities of the recently discovered sacbe are presented, along with its various functions. Evidence indicates it was designed, built, and maintained by villagers with no influence/contact from outsiders. Production and maintenance of household and communal buildings were equally internal processes. Each household had a service relationship to the community, evidenced by special-purpose buildings, or by an agro-economic specialization in one case. Food production was achieved by sophisticated agroforestry. Seed crops were planted on small ridges to increase water infiltration and decrease erosion. One root crop (manioc) was planted in elevated beds on slopes for drainage, while another (malanga) favored wet areas. Crop rotation involved manioc and maize. Fruit trees provided shade and food. Each household overproduced commodities for exchange within the village, and for exchange in nearby markets. Markets provided specialty products unavailable to villagers directly.

Cite this Record

Production, maintenance, and exchange in a young Maya community: Ceren, El Salvador. Payson Sheets. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Orlando, Florida. 2016 ( tDAR id: 403013)


Spatial Coverage

min long: -107.271; min lat: 12.383 ; max long: -86.353; max lat: 23.08 ;