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El Salvador skeletons shed light on pre-Hispanic life

AFP-JIJI

Japanese and Salvadoran archaeologists said Friday they have found three 1,600-year-old human skeletons in El Salvador that could shed new light on early human settlements in the region.

The three nearly complete skeletons, preserved in volcanic ash, were found near the Pacific coast at a dig called Nueva Esperanza.

The area was buried in ash from gigantic eruptions in the fifth and sixth centuries, which has helped preserve evidence of a pre-Hispanic coastal settlement possibly dedicated to salt production and fishing.

The find “opens a new door for Salvadoran archaeological investigations, which had (previously) focused only on ceremonial centers,” project director Akira Ichikawa said.

He expects more finds at the site, saying the 2-meter (7-foot) layer of volcanic ash hides an “archaeological wealth of evidence about the daily life and livelihood of these ancient coastal residents.”

The three bodies are those of two adults between 25 and 35 years old and a child between 7 and 9 years old with two clay beads around its neck, archaeologist Oscar Camacho said.

They had been buried — two of them in a cross-legged position — along with offerings including clay pots and jars with brown and red stripes.

The remains are being cleaned for study by the Archaeology Department at the National Museum of Anthropology in San Salvador. A tooth and a portion of a rib from each person will be used for chemical analysis aimed at determining their sex and age, as well as details of lifestyle, diet and illnesses suffered.