Featured Sites: Chalchuapa

Chalchuapa - Tazumal, Main temple

Meta Information

Tripart: 2006.018.003

Country: El Salvador

Archaeological Site: Chalchuapa

Title: Chalchuapa - Tazumal, Main temple

Culture: Maya

Date of Photograph: 1970

Photographer: Dr. Brian Hayden

Time Period: Late Preclassic

Location: El Salvador; Santa Ana

Subject: Site

The site of Chalchuapa has been continuously occupied for approximately 3,200 years. Today Chalchuapa is a modern El Salvadorian city, but it was once one of the largest centres in the south-eastern Mayan Highlands. Evidence of its ancient past can be found in the monumental architecture and sculptures that have survived there for centuries.Chalchuapa flourished and became a major cultural centre during the Late Preclassic period. It is known for its monumental stone sculpture, pottery manufacture and export, and its contribution to the development of Mayan calendrical and writing systems.Although Chalchuapa was primarily a Mayan site, two large sculptures similar to those found at the Olmec site of Chalcatzingo suggest an early Olmec expansion into the area. Artistic inspiration was not the only Olmec contribution to Chalchuapa. A pyramid known today as Structure E3-1 at the El Trapiche site in Chalchuapa may have been originally constructed by early Olmec inhabitants and it is considered one of the largest pyramids of its time. Structure E3-1 underwent a series of massive rebuilding projects over the centuries and eventually covered a substantial portion of the site.Development at Chalchuapa came to a halt near the end of the Late Preclassic period when the Volcano Ilopango, located some 75 km to the east, erupted and blanketed the region with ash. Chalchuapa slowly began to rebuild, but never regained its former splendour.