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Maya Village Under 17 Feet of Ash: Residents Lived Free and Clear of Overlords

Nov 04, 2015 02:47 PM EST
A pot from a Maya village buried under ash in El Salvador
Researchers say that the inhabitants of Latin America's best-preserved Maya village lived lives independent of the elites who lived nearby.
(Photo : University of Colorado)

New findings on an El Salvadoran Maya village preserved under volcanic ash for 1,400 years, and discovered in 1978, were recently published in the journal Latin American Antiquity.

Researchers from University of Colorado Boulder (CU-Boulder) funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), said in their report that despite the presence of elite royalty among the Maya in the valley, the farming families in the frozen village lived apart and conducted their lives mostly free of the elites' influence, according to a release.

The village of Ceren's interactions were largely among village elders, families, craftspeople and certain specialist maintenance workers, as archaeological evidence shows, said the release.

In all of Latin America, this is our best-preserved ancient Maya remnant village. It was covered by a 17-foot pile of ash in A.D. 660, after the half-mile-distant Loma Caldera volcano erupted, confirmed by the release.

The records reveal that these villagers were not serfs. They had free reign to choose crops, architecture, religious activities and economics, according to a release.

"This is the first clear window anyone has had on the daily activities and the quality of life of Maya commoners back then," anthropology Professor Payson Sheets said in the release. "At Ceren we found virtually no influence and certainly no control by the elites."

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-Follow Catherine on Twitter @TreesWhales

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