La Esmeralda

The main platform of La Esmeralda with the Volcán de Guazapa in the distance.

Matilde Gil and a looters' cut at La Esmeralda.
One of Cihuatán' s closer satellite sites, La Esmeralda was officially recorded by the late Stanley Boggs in January, 1975. He had found out about it because in 1971 Adán Barrios (now deceased) , one of the old time coyotes (antiquities dealers) of El Salvador let it be known that he had found a previously unlooted site. Barrios decided to try his hand at looting and he and a friend hired a large group of workmen and cut two cross trenches in the main pyramid. They also dug holes in some other platforms, but the giant trenches that wreck the main pyramid are still visible. Barrios was disappointed, since he "only" retrieved two pieces of Plumbate pottery, probably from a tomb in the pyramid. Adan Barrios gave Stanley Boggs a bag of sherds which were later reconstructed into a Guazapa Phase incensario.

La Esmeralda is located about 2 km. east of Guazapa on the former Hacienda La Esmeralda. This has been broken up into small land-holdings and the name of the hacienda is being forgotten by local people, although it sticks to the site. The site is on the lowest slopes of the Volcán de Guazapa and next to a steep walled gully. La Esmeralda is within the jurisdiction of the Pueblo de Guazapa and remains in private hands.

Sketch map of part of La Esmeralda.
Although Boggs recorded the site as being rather small -- about 3 ha. -- recent site survey by Paul Amaroli and Matilde Gil has shown that it is much more extensive, perhaps as much as 18 to 20 ha. in size. The site has at least 2 walled ceremonial compounds similar to those of Cihuatán. The one which has been photographed and mapped has a small pyramid and a series of lower platforms inside the ceremonial precinct. A second group of ceremonial or administrative platforms is located nearby, apparently centered on a platform to the east of the better-known group. Also noted are many house platforms, including a group of 5 about 120m to the east of the monumental constructions. Abundant obsidian was noted on the surface along with colonial ceramics and some historic glass and cream ware. Paul Amaroli suggests that at least one of the house platforms in this area (now under milpa) is 19th century. Curating colonial ceramic botijas was common because of the usefulness of these large, sturdy containers.

Air photograph of the main ceremonial center taken from a helicopter. The white specks in the lower left are oxen plowing a field. Ox carts are still a major means of transport in rural El Salvador. This one was encountered near La Esmeralda.

A Las Lajas Coarse figurine of unknown provenience depicting a male with a fancy headdress and nose ornament seated on a bench.
Most ceramics from La Esmeralda date the ceremonial and most other construction as Guazapa Phase. Ceramics are scarce on the surface -- a characteristic of all Guazapa Phase sites -- but include Tohil Plumbate, Las Lajas Coarse, Nicoya polychrome, and some other forms and wares characteristic of the Early Postclassic.

Photographs and sketch map by Paul Amaroli


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