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Before the Volcano Erupted: The Ancient Cerén Village in Central America

Overview

On an August evening around AD 600, residents of the Cerén village in the Zapotitán Valley of what is now El Salvador were sitting down to their nightly meal when ground tremors and loud steam emissions warned of an impending volcanic eruption. The villagers fled, leaving their town to be buried under five meters of volcanic ash and forgotten until a bulldozer uncovered evidence of the extraordinarily preserved town in 1976. The most intact Precolumbian village in Latin America,...

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Before the Volcano Erupted: The Ancient Cern Village in Central America

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Overview

On an August evening around AD 600, residents of the Cerén village in the Zapotitán Valley of what is now El Salvador were sitting down to their nightly meal when ground tremors and loud steam emissions warned of an impending volcanic eruption. The villagers fled, leaving their town to be buried under five meters of volcanic ash and forgotten until a bulldozer uncovered evidence of the extraordinarily preserved town in 1976. The most intact Precolumbian village in Latin America, Cerén has been called the "Pompeii of the New World."

This book and its accompanying CD-ROM and website (ceren.colorado.edu) present complete and detailed reports of the excavations carried out at Cerén since 1978 by a multidisciplinary team of archaeologists, ethnographers, volcanologists, geophysicists, botanists, conservators, and others. The book is divided into sections that discuss the physical environment and resources, household structures and economy, special buildings and their uses, artifact analysis, and topical and theoretical issues.

As the authors present and analyze Cerén's houses and their goods, workshops, civic and religious buildings, kitchen gardens, planted fields, and garbage dumps, a new and much clearer picture of how commoners lived during the Maya Classic Period emerges. These findings constitute landmark contributions to the anthropology and archaeology of Central America.

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Editorial Reviews

The Holocene
Overall, Before the Volcano Erupted will open the eyes of many Mesoamerican archaeologists to the magnitude of what they may normally be missing, and will stand as a widely cited benchmark for years to come. It is a must-buy for Mayanists, most Mesoamerican archaeologists and students of volcanic archaeology, but archaeologists in general will find it a phenomenally interesting read.
— Charles D. Frederick, University of Sheffield
The Holocene - Charles D. Frederick
Overall, Before the Volcano Erupted will open the eyes of many Mesoamerican archaeologists to the magnitude of what they may normally be missing, and will stand as a widely cited benchmark for years to come. It is a must-buy for Mayanists, most Mesoamerican archaeologists and students of volcanic archaeology, but archaeologists in general will find it a phenomenally interesting read.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780292777613
  • Publisher: University of Texas Press
  • Publication date: 3/28/2002
  • Edition description: 1ST
  • Pages: 238
  • Product dimensions: 8.72 (w) x 11.24 (h) x 0.92 (d)

Meet the Author

Payson Sheets is Professor of Anthropology at the University of Colorado at Boulder.
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Table of Contents

Preface
1 Introduction 1
Appendix
Pt. I Multidisciplinary Research 9
2 Volcanology, Stratigraphy, and Effects on Structures 11
3 Geophysical Exploration at Ceren 24
4 Ceren Plant Resources: Abundance and Diversity 33
Pt. II Household Archaeology 43
5 Ancient Home and Garden: The View from Household 1 at Ceren 45
6 Household 2 at Ceren: The Remains of an Agrarian and Craft-Oriented Corporate Group 58
7 Structure 16: The Kitchen of Household 3 72
8 Structure 4: A Storehouse-Workshop for Household 4 74
Pt. III Special Buildings 81
9 The Civic Complex 83
10 Structure 9: A Precolumbian Sweat Bath at Ceren 89
11 Structure 10: Feasting and Village Festivals 97
12 Divination at Ceren: The Evidence from Structure 12 104
Pt. IV Artifacts 115
13 Ceramics and Their Use at Ceren 117
14 The Chipped Stone Artifacts of Ceren 139
15 Groundstone Artifacts in the Ceren Village 145
16 Household and Community Animal Use at Ceren 151
17 Artifacts Made from Plant Materials 159
Pt. V Topics and Issues of Ceren Research 167
18 The Conservation Program at Ceren 169
19 Household Production and Specialization at Ceren 178
20 Cultivating Biodiversity: Milpas, Gardens, and the Classic Period Landscape 184
21 Continuity and Change in the Contemporary Community of Joya de Ceren 192
22 Summary and Conclusions 197
Glossary 207
References 209
Index 221
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