This book provides dramatic evidence of the effects of several volcanic disasters on a major civilization of the Western Hemisphere, that of the Maya.
Series: Texas Pan American Series
Scientists have long speculated on the impact of extreme natural catastrophes on human societies. Archeology and Volcanism in Central America provides dramatic evidence of the effects of several volcanic disasters on a major civilization of the Western Hemisphere, that of the Maya.
During the past 2,000 years, four volcanic eruptions have taken place in the Zapotitán Valley of southern El Salvador. One, the devastating eruption of Ilopango around A.D. 300, forced a major migration, pushing the Mayan people north to the Yucatán Peninsula. Although later eruptions did not have long-range implications for cultural change, one of the subsequent eruptions preserved the Cerén site—a Mesoamerican Pompeii where the bodies of the villagers, the palm-thatched roofs of their houses, the pots of food in their pantries, even the corn plants in their fields were preserved with remarkable fidelity.
Throughout 1978, a multidisciplinary team of anthropologists, archeologists, geologists, biologists, and others sponsored by the University of Colorado's Protoclassic Project researched and excavated the results of volcanism in the Zapotitan Valley—a key Mesoamerican site that contemporary political strife has since rendered inaccessible.
The result is an outstanding contribution to our understanding of the impact of volcanic eruptions on early Mayan civilization. These investigations clearly demonstrate that the Maya inhabited this volcanically hazardous valley in order to reap the short-term benefits that the volcanic ash produced—fertile soil, fine clays, and obsidian deposits.
- 1. Introduction, by Payson D. Sheets
- 2. Tierra Blanca Joven Tephra from the AD 260 Eruption of Ilopango Caldera, by William J. E. Hart and Virginia Steen-McIntyre
- Appendix 2-A. Field Data for Geologic Stops Mentioned in Chapter 2, by William J. E. Hart and Virginia Steen-McIntyre
- 3. Classic to Postclassic Tephra Layers Exposed in Archeological Sites, Eastern Zapotitán Valley, by William J. E. Hart
- 4. An Evaluation of Soil Properties and Potentials in Different Volcanic Deposits, by Gerald W. Olson
- Appendix 4-A. Soil Test Laboratory Data, by Gerald W. Olson
- 5. The Zapotitán Valley Archeological Survey, by Kevin D. Black
- 6. Excavations at the Cambio Site, by Susan M. Chandler
- 7. The Cerén Site: A Classic Period Maya Residence and Agricultural Field in the Zapotitán Valley, by Christian J. Zier
- Appendix 7-A. Volcanic Events at the Cerén Site, by Richard P Hoblitt
- Appendix 7-B. Preliminary Study of Selected Ceramics from the Cerén House, by Judith A. Southward and Diana C. Kamilli
- 8. The Cerén Survey and Test Excavations at C-2, a Postclassic Village, by Meredith H. Matthews
- 9. The Ceramics of the Zapotitán Valley, by Marilyn P. Beaudry
- Appendix 9-A. Summary of Figurines and Miscellaneous Ceramic Artifacts, by Kevin D. Black
- 10. Chipped Stone from the Zapotitán Valley, by Payson D. Sheets
- Appendix 10-A. Obsidian Hydration Study of Prismatic Blade Fragments from the Cambio Site, by Fred W. Trembour
- Appendix 10-B. Trace Element Analysis of Obsidian from the Cambio Site, by Helen V. Michel Frank Asaro, and Fred Stross
- 11. Ground Stone of the Zapotitán Valley, by Anne G. Hummer
- Appendix 11-A. Ground Stone Artifacts, by Site and Isolated Find, by Anne G. Hummer
- 12. Recent Geophysical Explorations at Cerén, by William M. Loker
- 13. Summary and Conclusions, by Payson D. Sheets
- Appendix I. Analysis of Faunal Materials from the Protoclassic Project in the Zapotitán Valley 1978 Season, by James Hummert
- Appendix II. Pollen Analyses from 1978 Research in the Zapotitán Valley, by Susan K. Short