El Salvador in Central America is one of our homeschool countries-of-the-week, so why not spend a few minutes today learning about one of El Salvador’s World Heritage Sites: the Joya de Cerén Archaeological Site.
Joya de Cerén has been called the Pompeii of the Western Hemisphere:
Joya de Cerén is an archaeological site located at the Canton Joya de Cerén, in the Department of La Libertad in El Salvador. The property has an extension of 3,200 ha. The archaeological site contains the remains of a pre-hispanic farming village that was covered by a volcanic eruption in the seventh century AD.
Around AD 500, the central and western parts of the territory of the modern Republic of El Salvador were buried beneath thick layers of volcanic ash from the Ilopango volcano. The area was abandoned until the ash layer had weathered into fertile soil and the Joya de Cerén settlement was founded. Not long afterwards, it was destroyed by the eruption of the Loma Caldera. The site was discovered during the construction of grain-storage silos in 1976, when a clay-built structure was exposed by a bulldozer. Excavations were resumed in 1989 and been continuing since that time.
The circumstances of the volcanic event led to the remarkable preservation of architecture and the artefacts of ancient inhabitants in their original positions of storage and use, forming a time capsule of unprecedented scientific value that can be appreciated in present times.
Underneath the layers of volcanic ash, the best preserved example of a pre-hispanic village in Mesoamerica can be found, with architectural remains, grouped into compounds that include civic, religious and household buildings. To date, a total of 18 structures have been identified and 10 have been completely or partially excavated. All structures are made of earth and important features like thatch roofs and artefacts found in-situ have been recovered. The excavated structures include a large community (public) building on the side of a plaza, two houses of habitation that were part of domiciles, three storehouses (one was in the process of being remodeled), one kitchen, and a sweat bath. On the northeast side of the plaza there is a religious building devoted to communal festivities and one where a shaman practiced. Rammed earth construction was used for the public buildings and the sauna, and wattle and daub (which is highly earthquake resistant) for household structures.
The degree of preservation also applies to organic materials, from garden tools and bean-filled pots to sleeping mats, animal remains and religious items that normally deteriorate in tropical conditions and were part of the subsistence and daily life of the inhabitants. These have been preserved as carbonized materials or as casts in the ash deposits. Several cultivated fields and other vegetation has also been uncovered. These include fields containing young and mature maize plants, a garden with a variety of herbs and a henequen (agave) garden. Various fruit trees, including guava and cacao, have also been found. (World Heritage Centre #675)
You can find a gallery of additional photos of the Joya de Cerén Archaeological Site on the World Heritage Centre’s website.
World Heritage Sites are cultural or natural landmarks of international significance, selected for recognition by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization. More than 1000 such sites have been recognized in over 160 countries, and we feature one every Wednesday, drawn from one of our homeschool countries-of-the-week. You can find a complete list of World Heritage Sites online at the World Heritage Centre and in Wikipedia.
The World Heritage Centre also has a free and comprehensive World Heritage education kit for teachers, as well as a wonderful full-color wall map of World Heritage Sites, available for the cost of shipping. Why not add them both to your own homeschool library. 🗺
What world treasures will you be exploring in your homeschool this Orion Term? 😊
❡ The great globe itself: This is one of our regular Homeschool States & Countries posts featuring cultural and natural sites of international importance. Download a copy of our River Houses World Heritage Calendar and follow along with us as we tour the planet, and add your name to our weekly mailing list to get great homeschool teaching ideas delivered right to your mailbox all through the year. 🌎 🌍 🌏
❡ This is a printable lesson: Down at the bottom of this post you’ll find a custom “Print” button and icon, along with several social-media share buttons. The Print button will let you create a neat and easy-to-read copy of this little lesson, and it will even let you resize or delete elements that you may not want or need (such as images or footnotes). Give it a try today! 🖨
❡ Books in the running brooks: You can always turn to your River Houses almanac, atlas, and history encyclopedia for more information about any of our countries-of-the-week. The almanac has profiles of all the nations of the world on pages 752–859; the endpapers of the atlas are indexes that will show you where all of the individual national and regional maps may be found; the history encyclopedia includes national histories on pages 489–599; and you can find additional illustrations, flags, and other mentions through the indexes in each of these volumes. For an ideal little lesson, just write the name of the Weekly World Heritage Site on your homeschool bulletin board, find its location in your atlas, read the WHC’s brief description aloud, look at a picture or two, and you’re done. Over the course of the year, without even realizing it, your students will absorb a wealth of new historical, geographical, and cultural information. 🇸🇻
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