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part five Topics and Issues of Cerén Research In this final section of the book, some of the topics that are of importance to Cerén Project researchers are considered. One topic, examined by Scott Simmons and Payson Sheets, is economics viewed from the household and village perspective. As one would expect, individual households apparently built and maintained their own structures as well as provided themselves with food. What we found that we did not expect is that every household investigated to date produced more of at least one commodity than it needed for its own consumption and used that surplus for exchange. This provided an economy of production, as each household did not have to maintain the knowledge and equipment to produce all of what it consumed, and the economic network of course provided social benefits to the traditional society. All households could exchange surplus production for long-distance traded goods they needed, such as obsidian, jade, hematite , and presumably salt. We believe that the commoners had choices, as the above products would have been available at San Andrés or at smaller elite centers scattered around the valley. With choices would have come at least some empowerment, as an elite center that was judged as setting an unfair exchange ratio could have been avoided for one that was considered more fair. Thus, viewed from the bottom up, the elite did not wield thorough economic power, and centralization was incomplete in the sixth-century Zapotitán Valley. Michelle Woodward and Payson Sheets present evidence for an intensive and sophisticated agroeconomic system in Cerén based primarily on maize cultivation, with Xanthosoma and beans as Tseng 2002.3.21 12:14 6272 Sheets / BEFORE THE VOLCANO ERUPTED / sheet 179 of 238 168 payson sheets secondary crops. In addition to these, squash, manioc , cotton seeds, cacao, and numerous orchard fruits were locally produced and consumed. Ancient Cerenians even grew the canes used in their bajareque construction and the maguey that provided them with fiber for twine and bags. Instead of engaging in part-time craft specialization, Household 4 specialized in agronomic overproduction and exchange of agave, chiles, and other products. Carlos Lara and Sarah Barber consider continuity and change as they compare Precolumbian Cerén with present-day Joya de Cerén, only a kilometer away. They do not take an extreme position of emphasizing continuity from the Classic Period to today , nor do they go to the opposite extreme. Their balanced account does point out some interesting continuities, such as today’s practice of elevating metates on horquetas (pronged supports) in a fashion virtually identical to the Precolumbian examples . On the other hand, the invasions by the Pipil and the Spanish, as well as globalization and family members working in the United States, have contributed to the many differences between the households of contemporary Joya de Cerén and those of ancient Cerén. P.S. Tseng 2002.3.21 12:14 6272 Sheets / BEFORE THE VOLCANO ERUPTED / sheet 180 of 238 ...


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