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How the Mayans Escaped

There are Mayan secrets that have not yet been revealed, and one of these may have been an escape route from a volcano in El Salvador. On an August evening 1,400 years ago the Loma Caldera volcano erupted a short distance away from the village of Ceren there. Archeologists have discovered an ancient road, built by the Mayans, which must have been the village's escape route. These sacbe, or "white ways," are raised roads paved with volcanic ash. They were built to connect temples and plazas within ceremonial centers or cities, although some of these structures no longer exist.

Ceren was an ancient community of about 200 people that was buried under 17 feet of volcanic ash. It disappeared for 1,400 years, but the ash not only destroyed it, it also preserved it as a kind of time capsule. Even the plants growing there at the time of the eruption have been preserved. The road seems to be leading from the outskirts of town to the main temple, where at the time of the eruption, the villagers had been preparing a ritual of some sort. In an emergency, people would have used this road to escape the city.

They left in such a rush that they left behind their belongings and even half-eaten food. In LiveScience.com, Jennifer Welsh quotes researcher Peyson Sheets as saying, "We know there was a celebration going on when the eruption hit. 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."

Sheets thinks they are likely to eventually find bodies along the road of those who succumbed to the ash and smoke from the volcano. Since no bodies have been found at the site yet, most of the city probably had time to flee, even if they didn't survive. Welsh quotes him as saying, "How far they might have gotten, I don't know. It would have been a footrace. I think it is very likely we will find bodies as we follow the sacbe southward in future excavations."

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