Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Tak'alik' Ab'aj: Archaeological and Natural Treasure

The millenarian history of Tak'alik Ab'aj is one of the most fascinating of Mesoamerica. The traces of the remarkable events that occurred at this site and how they affected the evolution of the cultures throughout the region have been found by the archaeologists in the remains of the materials, artifacts, monuments, and structures left by the early inhabitants: from massive monuments sculpted in stone, sacred buildings made of clay and faced with cobbles, ceramic vessels to stone and obsidian tools.
Even though only a very small portion (less than 10%) of the site has been excavated, the study of what has been found reflects the changes in styles and technology, and some of the skills and intellectual richness of the ancient architects and artisans. The observation of such changes has been determinant to establish the cultural, political, social, and economic development of these cultures.
The most ancient archaeological remains found at Tak'alik Ab'aj lead us 3,000 years into the past, around 1,000 BC, at the very end of the Early Pre-Classic Period. During this time, the inhabitants of Tak'alik Ab'aj built dwellings with cobblestone floors and thatched roofs supported by wooden posts. The pottery was hard-fired, black colored with a highly polished finish. The cutting tools they used were made of obsidian brought from the quarries of what we know today as San Martin Jilotepeque in the Department of Chimaltenango, and from El Chayal, located very close to the ancient city Kaminal Juyu.
The site, located in the municipality of El Asintal in the Department of Retalhuleu, is spread out over 6.5 squared kilometers along nine terraces. Its ceremonial center, at the city's core, is open to visitors but the remains of the city's outskirts are now on lands occupied by five coffee farms; one of these, on the ninth terrace, is home to an ecolodge.
Tak'alik Ab'aj is still an important ceremonial site and many Maya descendants from the Highlands perform ceremonies there.
To explore this place and learn about the civilizations that inhabited it, I invite you to come back tomorrow. I am sure we all will enjoy the visit!

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