Archaeologists excavating a Maya village in El Salvador buried by a volcanic eruption 1,400 years ago have unexpectedly dug up an ancient white road that leads to and from the town, which was frozen in time by a blanket of ash.
University of Colorado Boulder say that the road, known as a “sacbe,” is roughly 6 feet across and is made from white volcanic ash from a previous eruption that was packed down and shored up along its edges by residents living there in roughly A.D. 600.
CU-Boulder Professor Payson Sheets said that in Yucatan Maya, the word “sacbe” literally means “white way” or “white road” and is used to describe elevated ancient roads typically lined with stone and paved with white lime plaster and that sometimes connected temples, plazas and towns.
“Until our discovery, these roads were only known from the Yucatan area in Mexico and all were built with stone linings, which generally preserved well,” Sheets said.
“It took the unusual preservation at Ceren to tell us the Maya also made them without stone.”
Sheets said evidence suggests the village was conducting a crop-harvesting ceremony when the volcanic eruption hit and buried the town.
“We know there was a celebration going on when the eruption hit,” said Sheets.
“And we”ve found no evidence of anyone going back to their houses, gathering up valuables, and fleeing, because all the household doors were tied shut. We think people may have left the plaza and run south, possibly on the sacbe, because the danger was to the north,” he added.