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  • Salvadoran archeologist Michelle Toledo shows the site where the team found the human remains at Joya de Ceren, El Salvador. November 29, 2018.

    Salvadoran archeologist Michelle Toledo shows the site where the team found the human remains at Joya de Ceren, El Salvador. November 29, 2018. | Photo: EFE

Published 6 December 2018

Joya de Ceren was covered by volcano eruptions more than 1,400 years ago and archeologists are making new findings now.

Archeologists are starting new excavations at the ‘Joya de Ceren’ archeological park in El Salvador, aiming to expand their understanding of the Mayan village and its culture after remains of an adult were found in an ancient tomb in late November.


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The excavations will go on until February and archeologists expect to find new information about the village’s life and its social and economic systems.

“We hope that we can find new information about the daily life of the city in the area we still have to explore,” the archeologist in charge in the investigation, Michelle Toledo, told AFP. “The tomb was a surprise and we hope there are more that can provide new information.”

The human remains, found near a structure known as ‘the Shaman’s House,’ had an obsidian prismatic knife with them and experts think it belongs to the late classic period (600-900 A.D.). Due to the bad conditions of the tomb, experts took dirt samples and are still waiting for results to shed light about the village’s history.

According to Toledo, the tomb has “ceremonial characteristics” and the person didn’t die because of the eruption.

“The position of the found remains show a person of short stature and whose body was surrounded by pieces of obsidian,” Toledo told EFE after the discovery.

In an effort to make a European reference for the rest of the world to understand, the ruins have been dubbed ‘The Pompeii of America,’ after the Italian city covered by an eruption of Mount Vesuvius, because it was covered by a volcanic eruption more than 1,400 years ago.

The archeologists also found evidence of corn and manioc crops about 6 meters below the ground. “We will intervene and demarcate two prehispanic structures still in situ,” said Toledo.

The Japanese archeologist Shione Shibata, who has been researching the Mayan sites in El Salvador for 23 years, described Joya de Ceren as a ‘Time Capsule’ because the tragic volcanic eruption that covered it allowed for the conservation of details from everyday life.

One of the most interesting structures for visitors and experts alike is the ‘Temazcal,’ a sweat lodge made out of dirt for ritual use. While others found at places like Tikal were reserved for the elite, archeologists think this one could be used by common people.

The village at Joya de Ceren was covered by the eruption of four different volcanoes, most remarkably the Loma Caldera just about 20 kilometers away. It was discovered by chance in 1976 by a construction company and since then the Salvadoran government has carried efforts to investigate and protect it.

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