Thursday, December 6, 2012

Casa Blanca

Author's note: Frommer's Central America and An Archaeological Guide to Central and Southern Mexico states Casa Blanca is a site in and of itself. Other sources such as Archaeology of Ancient Mexico and Central America: An Encyclopedia and an article written by Robert J. Sharer state that Casa Blanca is not a site in and of itself but a group of structures that is part of a larger site called Chalchuapa. In his article, Robert J. Sharer refers to Casa Blanca as the Casa Blanca Mound Group, and says it is the largest out of all the groups of Chalchuapa.


Located in a park called Parque Arqueológico Casa Blanca, Casa Blanca is a small-ish ancient Maya site residing in El Salvador, not far from the site of Tazumel (Frommer's Central America says it is a 5 minute drive from this site). Casa Blanca, as well as other sites in El Salvador, are used as evidence to show that the country was a large center for trade during ancient times. Beyond the ruins, the park also includes other things such as a museum and an "archaeological window".

Historical Facts on Casa Blanca
Casa Blanca's structures mostly date from the Late Preclassic and the Classic Periods, though there was some building during the Postclassic Period. The site was not as used during the Postclassic Period, and seems to have  been used for burials.

Features of Casa Blanca
The park is 15 acres and has a total of six structures (three pyramids and three other structures), with a trail leading by them (Frommer's Central America states this is a 15 minute walk). Two of the pyramids have been restored somewhat.  At the base of structure five-- in front of the steps --, a column of basalt has been discovered. Next to this column a carved piece of stone has also been discovered.

Another Feature
Known as the Archaeological Window, at the park there is a square pit dug into the ground which tourists may view. The pit has a roof, a staircase and a platform for viewing, which was bought with money from the Japanese government.

Of note in the strata is a layer of white ash that comes from the Ilopongo volcano. Located east of San Salvador -- El Salvador's capital --, this volcano is thought to have erupted during the 400s AD, and is understood to have destroyed various communities in the area. It is now a large lake.

Associated Establishments

Parque Arqueológico Casa Blanca contains more than the ruins of Casa Blanca. It also contains a museum and a workshop known as the indigo workshop.

Museum
Designed to look like an hacienda, this museum is for Spanish speakers. Among its pieces, the museum is in the possession of the only (currently)  known piece of Maya writing with an El Salvadoran origin. The writing is a piece of a stela, and comes from El Trapiche, a site north of Casa Blanca. Its writing has almost entirely been destroyed purposefully.


Indigo Workshop
Started with government aid from Japan, the indigo workshop's focus is to teach how to dye with natural dyes and sells items the workshop has dyed indigo. However it closed down on December 31st, 2009 and has not yet reopened.

Hours Of Operation
The park is open Tuesday through Sunday. Hours vary by source: Frommer's Central America states it is open until 4:30PM but a site according to FUNDAR (National Foundation of Archaeology of El Salvador), the site is open until 4PM.  It costs $3 for an adult from a foreign country to enter the site but only $1 for a El Salvadoran adult or an adult from a Central American Country. There is also $1 for cars and $2 for buses.


References:

"Frommer's Central America"; Eliot Greenspan, Jisel Perilla, Nicholas Gill, Charlie O'Malley; 2011

"Western El Salvador: Frommer's Shortcuts"; Frommer's Shortcuts; 2007

"An Archaeological Guide to Central and Southern Mexico"; Joyce Kelly, Jerry Kelly; 2001

Smithsonian Institution National Museum of Natural History: Global Volcanism Program

University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology: "Expedition", Winter 1969; "Chalchuapa Investigations at a Highland Maya Ceremonial Center"; Robert J. Sharer Assistant Professor of Anthropology, Pitzer College

FUNDAR: Casa Blanca Archaeological Park

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