El Salvador: Cara Sucia Archaeological History

By: Hugh C. Talley






When I decided to write on El Salvador history I thought it would be relatively easy; I thought I would do a little research and put together a simple post, I was very mistaken. I am still researching and learning, and I must say that while it is complex and difficult, it is also enjoyable and challenging.

It will probably take me two or three posts to report the history of this great country. After this post, I will be doing post on El Salvador before it was El Salvador up to today. I will be doing other posts in-between the history post while I am researching. We hope that you will enjoy these.

I am doing my best to write on the history accurately however in my research I am finding some conflicting accounts of the history. If I find errors after I write a post, I will correct them and post an update.

Why I chose Cara Sucia History First
This post is on the archaeological site here in Cara Sucia; I chose this for the first post on El Salvador’s history for a couple of reasons. One is that I become friends with a gentleman who was able to get me a pass to visit this site and to talk to Mr. Paul Amaroli over the phone, one of the archaeologists that were on the field investigation in the 1980’s. Mr. Amaroli has worked to get funding for this site to be researched, protected and opened; he has not had much success or help from the government of El Salvador. I find this very discouraging and sad. Mr. Amaroli is living in El Salvador and researching other sites that are funded.

We were given the tour of the site by Mr. Eduardo Zalazar, who is the caretaker and guard of the site. Mr. Zalazar was very informative and helpful in putting me in Contact with Mr. Paul Amaroli. Mr. Zalazar has worked with Paul and been at the site since the 80’s.

The other reason I chose to write on this site first is that Cara Sucia is where I call home now and I become very interested in the history here.

  Cara Sucia Archeological Site History

The archaeological site at Cara Sucia is a Mesoamerican (a historical region in the Americas extending from central Mexico through Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, and Costa Rica) archaeological site in western El Salvador.

The site is believed to have been settled in the Preclassic period (1500 B.C. – 300 A.D. – Oxford Dictionaries).

Between 1982 and 1983 a field investigation for the site was organized by Stanley Boggs and Francisco Serrano and directed by Paul Amaroli and Victor Murcia. Paul Amaroli conducted additional research in 1986-1987.

The research shows that there was a settlement here for about 800 years before Christ, but the rise of this site is believed to be about 600 – 920 A.D. (the late Classic period) when it becomes a regional center of the Cotzumalhuapa culture. Cotzumalhuapa culture had a strong economic focus on the production of cocoa and cotton.

Excavations exposed the remains of a structure of burnt daub (a mixture of soil, river sand bamboo leaves, and water), with dates of approximately 920 A.D., this coincides with other evidence available on the date of the abandonment of the site.
The main structures at the site include temples, rectangular houses, two enclosed Mesoamerican ballcourts and a large platform supporting smaller structures.

There were also game courts and game related equipment discovered.

There were ceramics and the molds for making figurines and vases discovered.

It is not known what the spoken language of the Cotzumalhuapa culture was but, they do not believe it was Maya.

Historian Santiago Ignacio Barbarena first reported the archaeological site in the 19th century. During the 1980’s the site was heavily damaged by looters, with over 5000 looters trenches recorded. Today the site is not open to the public.

In 1992 Cara Sucia was entered on the UNESCO World Heritage Tentative List.

This was a great experience, Elizabeth and I enjoyed it very much. I hope that they can find a way to bring this site back to life so that people can learn more about this beautiful history.

I have attached some photos from our visit to the site and some from the extract Paul sent me of the chapter about Cara Sucia from his book, “Arqueología de El Salvador.”

Please hit the like and leave us comments to let us know what you think of our post. We thank you so much for your support.


Archaeological Site Cara Sucia



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