Maya Ruins in El Salvador?

There are other archaeologists a work in El Salvador at this time.  Karen Olsen Bruhns ( has a post at the end of this article. This has been updated 3/9/11.


Tuesday 8, March 2011

Three renowned French archaeologists have been travelling through the country to document the existence of cave art. Their findings at Morazan and La Union shed new light on the ancient inhabitants of El Salvador.

French archaeologists Philippe Costa, Eric Gelliot and Simon Merci from the Sorbonne University in Paris have been travelling through eastern El Salvador to document cave art found in this part of the country and try to better understand who and when created this.

The experts focused on 11 archaeological sites which hadn’t been properly documented before, and of which there were just some vague mentions in documents from the 1920s and 30s. Their findings proved the country’s rich cultural heritage, showing a diversity of styles that correspond to different peoples and eras.

At La Union, they found a rock carving of a snake which had great similarities with the Jaguar Disc at the Maya site of Cara Sucia in Ahuachapan (El Salvador), found at the end of the 20th century. This illustrates the movement and possible commercial routes followed by the pre-hispanic peoples, and may indicate that the Lempa River wasn’t a static border and may have shifted through the times.  More at…

Post from an archeologist on the ground in El Salvador below.

Well, I guess the news hasn’t hit France yet that we have all been including El Salvador, western Nicaragua (Rivas Province) and the Nicoya zone in Mesoamerica. I wodner if one of these wonderful caves is the Gruta de Espiritu Santo inear Corinto, Morazan, which has been repeatedly studied and published since the 1950s?   There is a good road to it now.

The Cacaopera petroglyphs were published in Historia de Cacaopera in 1985. Still on sale too. Actually, it would be very nice to have some people doing NEW work in El Salvador. The locals do the same 3 projects over and over pretty much (including an ongoing one, again, at the Gruto de Espiritu Santo).

Unfortunately there is no place to publish in El Salvador unless you do a book and the government finds a sponsor, so I guess they will pop around delivering their great news by hand.

K. Bruhns

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Hello Carlos,

I get rather annoyed, especially at the French guys, because they are so ready to denigrate local people and co-opt others’ work as their own “great discoveries.”  Sebastian Minnot has done this with Cara Sucia, when he could perfeclty well have been doing valuable new work at that site!  And now these guys! Oh well.

My position: I am emerita professor at San Francisco State University but what I do now is that I am Directora del Proyecto Arqueológico Cihuatán/Las Marías for the Fundación Nacional de Arqeuología deEl Salvador (FUNDAR).

We have been active since 1996 and, since 1999, have co-administered the Cihuatán Archaeological Park…which we raised money to develop and put in modern facilities (site musuem, running water, electricity and lavatories, cafetería, picnic area, security) when the government of El Salvador had virtually abandoned it.

We also, for some years, administered the other archaoelgoical parks, but we are a small and poor foundation and this was really hard for us and interfered with investigation so, when President Funes and the FLMN (a major political party) came in, we renounced with great pleasure and have, so far, resisted suggestions that we take over again (the government has no structure for park administration and the others are, alas, falling apart….but we are tired of the politics and do not have the personnel to take over again).

But we NEED archaeologists!  We need new projects.  We need help…the local archaeologists are fine but we need motivated archaeologists trained with a more European or American coursework.  Unfortunately less well trained than we expect.  Some of the locals have benefited from Fulbright scholarships, but are less rigorous than expectations. We do our best to help out the students in the only archaeology program in the country…and which we hold high expectations in the future.  So if all goes well Paula Amaroli and I will teach a field school–gratis–in October-November on basic archaeological methodologies.   It is all very sad and I do wish these French guys would get with the scheme and be useful instead of just silly and self-aggrandizing.  KB


About carlos

I'm a curious person, of reasonable intellect, "on the beach" (retired) and enjoying my interest in anthropology, language, civil rights, and a few other areas. I've been a hippie/student/aerospace tech writer in the '60s, a witness to the Portuguese revolution in the ‘70s, a defense test engineer and witness to the Guatemalan genocide in the '80s, and a network engineer for an ISP in the '90s. Now I’m a student and commentator until my time is up. I've spent time under the spell of the Mesoamerican pyramids and the sweet sound of the Portuguese language. I've lived in Europe, traveled in Brazil, Central America, Iceland, New Zealand, and other places. My preferred mode of travel is with a backpack and I eat (almost) anything local. Somehow, many of the countries I have been to have had civil unrest (for which I was not responsible). I'm open to correspond with anyone who might share my liberal, humanist interests. I live in San Buenaventura, California.
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