In the K’iche’ language Tazumal means ‘pyramid where the victims were burned.’ Archaeologists estimate that the verdant 10-sq-km Tazumal area – much of which is still buried under Chalchuapa’s housing – was first settled around 5000 BC. The latest works, inaugurated in December 2006, restored the original stone-and-mortar construction of much of the ruins. A chain-link enclosure prevents visitors walking on the pyramids, but their close proximity to everyday Salvadoran life connects the site to the present in a powerful way.
A museum displays artifacts that show active trade as far away as Panama and Mexico, with explanations in Spanish. Other finds, including the Estela de Tazumal, a 2.65m-high basalt monolith inscribed with hieroglyphics, are at the Museo Nacional de Antropología David J Guzmán in San Salvador.