The gangs and archaeology

The gang violence which continues to bedevil El Salvador has forced a suspension to archaeological investigations at Joya De Ceren.  According to an article published in El Faro, the archaeological team from the University of Colorado, which has been working at the site for almost 40 years, retired from the country in 2016.  El Faro published an article from Dr. Payton Sheets, the original discover of the ancient Mayan village now classified as a World Heritage Site.

The scholars from Colorado had hoped to be working on important new excavations funded by a National Science Foundation grant during 2016-18.    Dr. Sheets, however,  pointed to two events in early 2016 which led his team to suspend their work.   The first was the murder of two close friends and collaborators who lived in the community Joya de Ceren.    The second was the massacre of eight electrical workers and three witnesses in a zone close to the archaeological site.   The confluence of these events made team members too fearful to continue working in the region.

The suspension of the archaeological investigation is a poignant example of how gang violence has ripple effects throughout Salvadoran society. Even our ability to understand the lives of people who lived 1400 years ago is impacted by the senseless cycle of killing.

While the archaeological site remains open to tourists and visitors, the local community also loses out from the absence of the archaeologists and the additional employment and spending they bring when they are engaged in field work.  

You can learn much more about what Dr. Sheets and has team had learned in previous decades work at this site.