Sunday, June 3, 2012

Exploring El Salvador

 El Salvador is a small country and since we were only planning on staying for a short time, we decided to organize a trip inland to optimize what we could see. We decided on an archeological tour of the local Mayan ruins and started investigating the best tour companies. The company we chose had a nice air conditioned van with a brilliant tour guide and driver and we set off early in the morning for our first stop, Joya de Ceren.

Joya De Ceren is a pre columbian Maya farming village that was preserved by volcanic ash. It was preserved when a volcano in close proximity erupted, forcing the people to flee and leave everything exactly where it was, so you can see exactly how they lived and what they ate. Food was found on plates and soup left in pots over fires, which indicates the haste in which they departed. The farming community of Joya de Ceren was inhabited as early as 900 BC and was evacuated when the nearby volcano erupted in AD 536. Unfortunately only 10 percent of the site is on display.  The rest is still underground, left untouched as exposure to the elements has caused those parts that have been exposed to rapidly deteriorate from rain erosion which you can clearly see in the pictures. The ruins should be kept in climate controlled buildings so that they can be properly preserved and protected and the Salvadorians have been heavily critisized by archeologists from other countries because of this. Unfortunately they just don't have the money to do this, so the best way to preserve them is to simply leave them underground for the future. They still struggle to protect these sites from the heavy rain and humidity and have to have a significant army detachment patrol the grounds at night to stop the looters!

Our guide pointed out this bird, the Torogoz which is the national bird of El Salvador. Apparently it symbolizes family because it participates with its mate in the caring of its young, awwwww.


This is an ancient steam room. The Mayans believed that you could sweat out your demons or illness, so they would crawl through the very small doorway and sit in this steam room. The circular thing on top was used to control the climate as a pressure release valve...

This is a Cocoa pod. Yes its chocolate in its rawest form and apparently this was the inspiration behind the coca cola bottle.

Here you can see three structures, at the back there's a bedroom where you can see the bed. In the middle is a store room and the in the front is the kitchen area. The rooms were all separate incase of fire, very sensible. 

This building is where the people would visit for the telling of their future. It was very much like the Catholic confessional with the priest in a separate room.

This is a ripe Cocoa pod.


After Joya De Ceren we visited San Andres which is where the political and ceremonial sites are located. The granduer of these sites is more evident as this was the residence of kings. The kings maintained their dominence from their superior knowledge. The kings knew when there would be a full moon and solar eclipse, so the people thought that they had direct communication with the gods.

Next on the list was a panoramic visit to Coatepeque lake. This lake is fabulous and has been a popular site for Salvadorian honeymooners for centuries. I can see why.

Next we visited Santa Ana city.

Santa Ana Theatre

Our guide pointed of the cashew fruit. Did you know that the cashew nut grows just underneath this orange cashew fruit? I had no idea. The Salvadorian people eat both the fruit and the nut. You can see the nut shell just underneath the fruit. The nut is poisonous until it is roasted and only then is it safe to eat. I always wondered why cashew nuts were so expensive. Can you imagine how many of these you would have to pick and roast to make a a jar of nuts!

We bought a large bag from a local street merchant and suddenly didn't feel bad at all for spending $5 for a bag of cashews! This guy weighed them out with copper weights on a hanging scale.

Our final stop was a visit to the Tazumal archaeological site

Human sacrifice was performed on the chest like platform at the top of the stairs. The priest would stand in-between the two large rectangular boxes with each have two holes in the top and bottom which would act like speakers! Apparently the amplification was amazing and Lee is going to investigate how this works as it's amazing for it's time!