Rising from the Ashes: Power and Autonomy at Ceren, El Salvador

Author(s): Christine Dixon

Year: 2016


On the side of a road in El Salvador in 1978, the life of Payson Sheets and the remains of the Classic Period Maya settlement of Cerén fatefully intersected. When Sheets first understood the actual antiquity of the site buried by volcanic ash to be 1,400 years old, what could not have been known was the decades of research that would ensue, nor the wide-ranging impacts that such findings would have for household archaeology, commoner studies, and archaeological method and theory. Sheets has directed research at the UNESCO World Heritage site of Cerén for over three decades. Through his dedication, eleven earthen structures that sit among their agricultural fields have been excavated. Theoretical and methodological contributions of more recent work at Cerén are discussed through the lens of key findings. This paper pulls together recent research at the site, initiated in 2005 with geophysical explorations, followed by major research projects in 2007, 2009, 2011, 2013. Our understanding of ancient Maya lifeways has been enormously enhanced through the discovery of manioc fields and an earthen sacbe, allowing us to better reconstruct social and political power and autonomy within the community.

Cite this Record

Rising from the Ashes: Power and Autonomy at Ceren, El Salvador. Christine Dixon. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Orlando, Florida. 2016 ( tDAR id: 403835)


commoners Community Maya

Geographic Keywords

Spatial Coverage

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