Under the thatched roof of a squat adobe house, Maya families eat their evening meal — dishes of bright yellow corn, beans and a root vegetable called manioc. Suddenly they hear a disturbingly loud, high-pitched noise. Knowing exactly what it means, they frantically gather their children and run for their lives.
This is what anthropologists believe happened in the area now known as El Salvador, as the Loma Caldera volcano erupted around A.D. 630. Villagers had barely enough time to flee, and everything left behind was perfectly preserved in volcanic ash. But what was a tragedy at the time is now a magnificent window into the everyday life of Maya commoners and one of the coolest things to see in El Salvador — perhaps even all of Central America.
The pre-eruption steam mixed with volcanic ash created a sticky substance that froze an entire Mesoamerican farming community — and their supper — in time.
A tour guide will walk you through the site where you’ll see rooms that once served as kitchens, bedrooms and a steam room known as a temescal.