The Complex Community of Cerén, El Salvador: a Classic Maya Example of Heterogeneity

Author(s): Christine C. Dixon; Payson Sheets

Year: 2018


The Loma Caldera eruption of c. AD 660 dramatically buried a sophisticated community built by craftspeople, architects, religious specialists, political leaders, and agriculturalists. As people fled for their lives, they left behind belongings and buildings. Results from decades of archaeological research at Cerén, El Salvador and in the surrounding Zapotitán Valley challenges an ethnocentric, over-simplified reconstruction of ancient socio-political organization. Cerén was not in the middle of a city, but neither was it isolated. The large regional center of San Andres was only 5 km away, yet Cerenians distinguished themselves with their own governance, religious ceremonies, feasts, the wide array of species they grew, and their earthen architecture (road, domiciles, and public buildings), that was unlike the stone construction of surrounding settlements. The Cerén community expressed and maintained their ideological, social, political, and economic autonomy, while remaining connected to the variety of other settlements throughout the valley. Engaged in larger Maya practices and trade networks of southern Mesoamerica, Cerenians crafted a lifestyle for themselves that enabled them to successfully subsist off the land on their own terms. Remains of such communities enhance our understanding of the socio-political spectrum and provide a graphic reminder of the liabilities of using simple dichotomies.

Cite this Record

The Complex Community of Cerén, El Salvador: a Classic Maya Example of Heterogeneity. Christine C. Dixon, Payson Sheets. Presented at The 82nd Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Washington, DC. 2018 ( tDAR id: 443844)

This Resource is Part of the Following Collections


Spatial Coverage

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

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 22463