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Survey of Tazumal archaeological park and development of young researchers

Survey of Tazumal archaeological park and development of young researchers

Nagoya University

El Salvador

The Archaeological site of Tazumal in Chalchuapa

2004-2012 Human Resource Development,Conservation and Restoration,Local Development,Fundamental Research
01/04/2014
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BACKGROUND

Pyramids that symbolize national identity

Archaeological site of Tazumal in Chalchuapa

Chalchuapa is home to the oldest archaeological sites in El Salvador, and is composed of a number of sites, such as Tazumal, El Trapiche, and Casa Blanca. People began living in Chalchuapa in the early Preclassic period and built the largest pyramid structure in El Trapiche during the Middle Preclassic period. Thereafter, the town center was moved to Casa Blanca in the late Preclassic period, and then to Tazumal in the early Classic period. Tazumal flourished as the center of Chalchuapa until the Spanish conquest, but its people have continued to live in Tazumal during and after the period of Spanish rule. The main pyramid in Tazumal was depicted on a large denomination note (100 colón) before the colón was substituted by the U.S. dollar. Today, it is featured as the background image on ID cards, and symbolizes the identity of the people of El Salvador. The Tazumal site has been made into a national archaeological park.

Archaeology in El Salvador

When we visited El Salvador for the first time in the 1990s on a survey tour, there were no archaeologists who graduated from a university in El Salvador, largely because no universities in the country offered a major in archaeology, and students who wished to study archaeology went to a foreign university. Given this situation, a major in archaeology was offered for the first time in the country at Universidad de San Jorge. In 1997, it undertook the role of providing practical training in archaeology and other relevant courses in an archaeological survey that was implemented by Kyoto University of Foreign Studies with funding from the Grant-in-aid for Scientific Research. Later, however, the five archaeology majors at Universidad de San Jorge transferred to Universidad Tecnológica de El Salvador (UTEC).

Salvadoran and Japanese students who participated in the archaeological survey at Tazumal

Researchers from the Department of Archaeology and students engaging in conservation and restoration activities in Tazumal archaeological park

ACTIVITIES

Exploration of Southeastern Mesoamerica with young researchers

Archaeological surveys in El Salvador by Japanese researchers

Kyoto University of Foreign Studies conducted an archaeological survey in Casa Blanca from 1997 to 2000, with a focus mainly on the study of the spreading of the Teotihuacan civilization, considered the largest urban civilization in Mesoamerica. However, much remained unknown about the history of El Salvador, located at the southeastern end of Mesoamerica. For example, questions regarding the origination of royal power and the physical scope of Mesoamerica remained unanswered. To clarify these questions, Nagoya University launched a survey at the archaeological site of Casa Blanca in Chalchuapa in 2000. The survey expanded into Tazumal archaeological park in 2004 and is still ongoing. With the participation of students from Nagoya University and Universidad Tecnológica de El Salvador and researchers from the Department of Archaeology in Dirección Nacional de Patrimonio Cultural, the excavation survey is being continued with the hope of clarifying the development history of pyramids in El Salvador.

Development of young researchers

The development of local young researchers was one of the objectives of the archaeological survey implemented by Kyoto University of Foreign Studies. The efforts made in the survey and the cooperation of Japanese researcher employed by governmental research institutions in El Salvador produced the first five archaeologists in the country. Inheriting this tradition, Nagoya University accepts students from Universidad Tecnológica de El Salvador and provides practical training through the implementation of surveys, with the aim of training Salvadoran students and developing young researchers. We also encourage the participation of Nagoya University students toward establishing long-term international academic exchanges.

A turquoise and jade necklace found in burial 0 (estimated restoration)

RESULTS

Toward the implementation of archaeological surveys and cultural property restoration and conservation by the people of El Salvador

Conservation and restoration activities by Salvadoran researchers

Diverse buildings and artifacts of academic significance were found in the archaeological survey conducted at Tazumal archaeological park. At the same time, efforts were made to allow Salvadoran researchers to conserve and restore cultural properties by themselves. In 2012, the conservation and restoration of a pyramid structure was undertaken for the first time by Salvadoran researchers from the Department of Archaeology in Dirección Nacional de Patrimonio Cultural at the Tazumal and Casa Blanca archaeological parks, with the participation of a large number of students from the architectural department at Universidad de El Salvador (UES). The project ran for several weeks, and represented the first joint undertaking for cultural property protection by researchers and students in El Salvador. We hope to continue providing our help to support local efforts for the protection of cultural properties.

Regional development of Chalchuapa city

In 2012, a joint survey started in El Trapiche, an archaeological site that displays an older culture than Tazumal, mainly by the initiative of the Department of Archaeology in Dirección Nacional de Patrimonio Cultural. As the El Trapiche site is located in a private estate (San Antonio coffee plantation), the survey is being conducted with permission from the landowner. The landowner is a member of the Chalchuapa tourism association NGO, and is involved in planning the development of Chalchuapa city through tourism. Preparations are also being made to create an exhibition room in the plantation, to be open to the public. Additionally, we are hoping to establish a tourist route through Chalchuapa’s cultural heritage by connecting the two national archaeological parks in Chalchuapa (Tazumal archaeological park and Casa Blanca archaeological park) and also by organically connecting the private land in El Trapiche. In such ways, we are considering extending our cooperation to contribute to the implementation of archaeological surveys and to positive movements regarding culture.

Offerings found on the southern side of a pyramid

Salvadoran and Japanese students performing an underground radar probe in El Trapiche

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