Friday, August 25, 2006

archaeology in my backyard!

before i get into the fabulous discovery of what may be mayan piedras in ataco, let me ask you there anything better than the ¨pretty in pink: everything's duckie edition¨ dvd being released yesterday? so for those of you who´ve been asking me if i ¨need¨ anything down here....ahem, yeah, i NEED this!! definitely in my top 5 movie list.

anyway, getting back to the i was talking to some dude in apaneca a couple weeks ago and he told me that they discovered some ancient stones in ataco, near/in the cemetery. i was super excited and planned on getting over there, and then the next day read an article in the salvadoran newspaper about it. they think the stones are mayan, but obviously need to do more examinations of them. there is a group called CONCULTURA which is in charge of all things culture here in el salvador and they are in the process of investigating them. anyway, so when antonio and i were in ataco the next time we asked around andas it turns out, they are being housed in the alcadia´s (mayor´s office/building). so we head over there and ask the front guard if we can see the stones. we are asked to pay a quarter, which is the ¨entrance fee¨ to see them. so we go into the room where the are and it´s so hilarious, because the stones are fantastic! but they´re sitting on this kind of table and there´s just a rope separating the stones from anyone who´s viewing them. there´s also a handwritten note taped to the rope that says ¨favor no tocar.¨ (please don´t touch)

so i´m trying to tell antonio that if this were in the states, or europe or wherever, these would probably already have been carted off to some lab or museum or something. but i´m telling you, to be able to see them up close, before lots and lots of other people have, was really cool. it was quite emotional! kind of like when i saw those van gogh paintings in the musee d´orsay in paris. anyway, i e-mailed some of the pics to one of my old anthropology professors back at CSU who specializes in mayan archaeology and he said they ¨may¨ be mayan, but are clearly in the salvadoran style. see, the department of ahuachapán, where i live, is the westernmost department of el salvador and borders guatemala. so there were clearly mayan cultures that lived here, but they were also heavily influenced by other groups that were here as well. the nahuat, which is a group that includes the pipil indians, lived here and their influence is all over western el salvador. names like ¨apaneca,¨ ¨ataco,¨ ¨nahuizalco,¨ ¨salcoatitan,¨ ¨ahuachapán,¨ and ¨atiquizaya¨ are all nahuat words that have different meanings. for example, in nahuat, apaneca means ¨windy river¨ or ¨river of wind.¨ anyway, i´m not clear if it was just the pipil, or all of the groups within the nahuat culture, that drove out the mayan cultures here in el salvador. but i think what my professor was saying was that the mayan archaeology of el salvador is clearly different than the mayan archaeology in let´s say, tikal - which is in northern guatemala.

in any event, i´m really excited and i´m going to try my darndest to get in touch with CONCULTURA and see if i can worm my way into working with them or something. there is also another intresting story about archaeology in this area. when the massive earthquakes occurred in 2001 here in el salvador, the iglesia antigua catolica in apaneca was destroyed. when i got here in december 2005, they were still repairing it, and are still not finished. well, i just got the full story on why it´s taking so long. after the earthquakes destroyed the beautiful church, they started bulldozing away the debris and what did they find? stones and figurines and things like that similar to what they just found in ataco. so apparently all these archaeological teams came in, as well as CONCULTURA and were excavating and investigating everything. but finally, the padre of the church realized that because of the archaeological finds, the rebuilding of his church was not going to start. so he halted all excavations and said everyone had to get out. the salvadoran government gave him an ultimatum and said that if he didn´t allow the excavations then the church was not going to receive any money from the government to rebuild. and he said ¨that´s fine with me.¨ so the rebuilding of the church is taking forever because there´s no money to finance the materials and the labor. meanwhile, underneath the church are tons of archaeological finds. i find that story fascinating!!!

anyway, here are some photos of the stones.....for those of you have no interest at all in archaeology, i can see you saying ¨what, THESE are what laura´s going on about?¨ because they´re not that huge and some of the designs and stuff are hard to make out. but believe me, most archaeology or paleontology or whatever is not as romantic as it seems. i mean, finding a complete skeleton, intact, of a t-rex doesn´t happen all the time. nor does some indiana jones-style type of ancient city get discovered every day!!


what i find interesting about this is that here is a tool that was being used back during the time of the maya (and even way before in north america by native americans there) to flatten corn to make tortillas. and you´ll find the people in the campo of el salvador using the same tool today, in the year 2006. amazing!

me playing the part of a tourist