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SAN ANDRES-La Libertad, El Salvador
San Andres was an important commercial site having strong trade links with the Guatemalan Highlands, the Pacific Slope, and particularly with Copan in Honduras. The archaeological zone was settled early on in the Middle Pre-Classic (800-300 B.C.). It went on to become an important regional administrative and ceremonial center during the Late Classic (600-900 A.D). It is located in the Zapotitan Valley in central El Salvador.
San Andres is situated within an archaeological park, and is divided into two main groups, both of which can be visited. The area of the park is about 87 acres/35 hectares. Over 60 mounds have been identified. The ruins of a17th century indigo plantation are located on the property with associated historical information found in the museum. The park is 20 miles/32 kms from the Capital and about the same distance from the city of Santa Ana, in the central part of the country. Take the Pan American Highway past the town of Santa Tecla, to km 32 and look for signage for a turnoff to the site. The small, yet interesting UNESCO site of Joya de Ceren is located a short distance away.
HOURS: 9 A.M-4 P.M. Closed Monday
ENTRANCE FEE: U.S. $3, plus parking fee U.S. $1
GUIDES: Yes, inquire at visitor kiosk
SERVICES: Bathrooms, snack bar, theatre, picnic area
ON-SITE MUSEUM: Yes
ACCOMMODATIONS: Lodging can be found in San Salvador and Santa Ana
GPS: 13d 48' 37" N, 89d 23' 27" W
HISTORY AND EXPLORATION
San Andres was first settled in the Middle Pre Classic. Monumental architecture begins to appear in the Late Pre Classic (300 B.C.-200 A.D.). The tremendous eruption of Ilopango volcano c.250 A.D. forced the abandonment of the site. This event had wide repercussions throughout the Maya area, disrupting trade routes and creating a mass exodus of the large population affected. The site was later reoccupied in the 5th century.
During the Late Classic (600-900 A.D.), the site reached its apogee, and a number of its core structures were completed. A strong relationship has been identified with Copan in Honduras during this time frame. A ceramic style known as “Copador” was widely distributed between the two sites. The central theme, written in glyphs on the upper band of the ceramics as ox uiil, refers to “abundant food”. Unlike Copan, there are no stelae or other glyphic records that record the names of its rulers or its history.
The first investigations of the site were carried out by Stanley Boggs, and BY John and Chris Dimick in the 1940’s. Further excavations and restorations were conducted in the 1970’s, with current work continuing at the site.
There are two main structural groups at San Andres. The Acropolis Complex lies at the southern end of a north/south axis. A large pyramid complex known as La Campana is located to the north across a very wide plaza.
The Acropolis contains Structures 1-4 and 7, and is set about a raised central plaza. Structure 1 is located on the southern end of the plaza. It is a truncated pyramid that has been partially restored. There are two small stairways that reach up to a terrace. From here a central stairway leads to the summit where a temple once stood. The structure reaches a height of 49 feet/15 meters.
Adjacent to Structure 1 is Structure 2 which consists of a low platform containing a palace type construction. The east side of the plaza contains Structure 3 and Structure 4. These are partially restored small pyramids with temples at the summit.
Structure 7 is located just behind Structure 1. This was possibly a royal residence built upon a separate raised platform. An interesting cache was discovered within the structure that shows a close relationship to Copan. It contained eccentric flints that were associated with royalty, as well as artifacts connected to auto sacrifice such as a sting ray spine and spondylus seashells. Numerous tombs have been discovered containing “Copador” style ceramics. This ceramic style is also heavily found at Copan as well. The on-site museum has a fine collection of these ceramics.
Structure 5, also known as La Campana is situated about 700 feet/213 meters north across the main plaza. This is the largest structure at the site with a height of 60 feet/18 meters. It is a pyramidal structure that has not been restored, though excavations have been initiated. There are twin stairways that are on the western side that lead to an upper terrace. From there a central stairway leads to a summit temple.
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