restricted access Chapter 9: The Civic Complex
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chapter 9 The Civic Complex Andrea I. Gerstle The civic complex at Cerén, only partially investigated to date, has three known major elements: Structure 3, Structure 13, and a plaza area (Fig. 1.1). Two geophysical anomalies on the eastern side of the plaza may turn out to be civic structures, but they might be household buildings. Structures 3 and 13 are located on the west and south sides, respectively, of the known plaza area. The focus here is on Structure 3, which is completely excavated and is the best-known feature of the complex. Structure 13 and the plaza area have been minimally explored, and we are ignorant of other areas and features of the complex. Following a brief description of the known elements, some discussion of the complex and its use is presented. BeaudryCorbett (Beaudry 1989; Beaudry-Corbett 1990, 1992, 1993) provided the ceramic identifications and discussions of their significance. Similarly, Sheets (1989a,b, 1990a,b, 1992b, 1993a) focused on the chipped and groundstone artifacts. Structure 3 Structure 3 (Fig. 9.1) is the largest known building in Cerén (Gerstle 1989). It consists of a solid clay platform (approximately 8 × 5 m, up to 1.35 m high), supporting a two-room, solid-walled superstructure with a large thatched roof. The ground surface on which Structure 3 was erected was raised with a layer of red clay up to 40 cm thick. Probably the clay was laid as a partial foundation for the platform to compensate for the rather steep natural slope of the ground in that area, which is adjacent to a drainage channel (Conyers 1993). The top of the west (back) side of the platform is 2.7 to 2.9 m above the top of the layer of red clay.The building itself is oriented with its long axis about 30° east of north (Fig. 9.2). Conyers (1995a,b) conducted ground-penetrating radar research with high frequency antennas on the floor of Structure 3 and detected the construction sequence. It began by digging a shallow (10–20 cm) hole almost a meter in diameter in the ground surface right in what would be the center of the building , and constructing a feature that alternated high and low radar reflective materials into a mound shape. That must have been a dedicatory feature. Then basketloads of fill were brought in and tamped down. The fill was of mixed materials; probably the less radar reflective was the Ilopango volcanic ash and the more reflective was the pre-Ilopango clayladen soil. Solid clay walls about 2 m high on the platform form two long narrow rooms. These walls, constructed with puddled or rammed adobe, are decorated with projecting squared cornices along their top edges.The cornices on the exterior walls project to the outside; the interior room-divider wall has a cornice projecting into the front room.The exterior walls are considerably thicker (45–55 cm) than the room divider wall (38 cm). The exterior walls also are set about 15 cm in from the platform edge to create a continuous narrow ledge around the building. All wall and platform surfaces were coated with a finishing layer of smoothed clay up to a centimeter thick. Access to the front room is through a doorway approximately 1.2 m wide centered in the long east Tseng 2002.3.21 12:14 6272 Sheets / BEFORE THE VOLCANO ERUPTED / sheet 95 of 238 84 andrea i. gerstle figure 9.1. Plan of Structure 3, with artifacts. The plaza is to the south and east. wall of the building. The back room is accessible only from the front room, through a doorway centered in the wall separating the two rooms. Both rooms are long and narrow. The front room area is about 12.2 m2 and the back room is about 14.3 m2 in area. Architectural features in the rooms include niches, benches, and embedded ceramic handles. Both the front and the back rooms have two symmetrically placed niches built into the thick exterior walls and opening into the rooms.The niches are about halfway up the walls. They are approximately 40–50 cm wide, 30 cm high, and 30 cm deep, with a roughly rectangular shape. In the front room, the niches are in the long front wall; in the back room, the niches are in the long back wall. Two large solid-clay benches occupy both ends of the front room (Fig...


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Subject Headings

  • Volcanic ash, tuff, etc. -- El Salvador -- Zapotitán Valley.
  • Zapotitán Valley (El Salvador) -- Antiquities.
  • Mayas -- Antiquities.
  • Plant remains (Archaeology) -- El Salvador -- Zapotitán Valley.
  • Ceren Site (El Salvador).
  • Mayas -- Urban residence -- El Salvador -- Zapotitán Valley.
  • Animal remains (Archaeology) -- El Salvador -- Zapotitán Valley.
  • Social archaeology -- El Salvador -- Zapotitán Valley.
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