Joya de Ceren, El Salvador

The Cerén site in El Salvador was dramatically buried by multiple meters of volcanic ash c. AD 630 resulting in the extraordinary preservation of this Classic Period Maya site.

Project Highlights

  • Studying how the Maya used root crops such as manioc in their diet
  • Multiple field boundaries between various agricultural plots have been identified
  • Identification of land use lines
  • Discovery of two different styles of manioc beds which are likely indicative of different farmers

Project Details

In 2007, understanding of Cerén agricultural was revolutionized by the discovery of intensive manioc cultivation. Long hypothesized as a potentially important component of the ancient Maya diet (Bronson 1966), research provided the first direct evidence for cultivation at this scale in the Maya area.

In 2011 the team identified a sacbe (road) at the site that is minimally 42 meters in length, 2 meters wide, and has formalized canals on either side. This research has broader implications into topics of:

  • Political economy
  • Commoner-elite and rural-urban dichotomies
  • Feasting
  • Communal labor
  • The role of manioc in the diverse landscape of ancient Maya agriculture

Learn more about the Joya de Cerén research.