El Baul

El Baul | GuatexplorerEl Baul was an archaeological site located on a private land near the town of Santa Lucia Cotzumalguapa. Nobody has protected it as a public good, so the site itself is almost gone. What you can do is to pay a visit to the small museum in the open to see the carved stones found there. They will not even charge you the entrance fee.


In 2005 I was honored to visit Takalik Abaj, the site of early Mayan culture from the time when they were still influenced by the Olmecs. In general, these sites on the Pacific side of Guatemala are all evidence of this influence: when you see large statues of stone, usually round, you can see that Olmecs influence.

About El Baul I heard by reading some books about that specific Pacific culture. Scientists have determined that the direction of the coming of culture to Central America went along the Pacific coast. I think there is a climatic reason: the Atlantic side is less comfortable, exposed to the hurricanes. It is obvious that the climate has been changing over the centuries, since when we talk about the Maya it stretches over a long period of time, from 6th century BC. up to the 10th century AD when Mayan culture produced large cities marked by huge temples and pyramids, terrains for the ceremonial ball play and a number of other large stone buildings.

There are other localities besides El Baul that speak about those early Mayan days: Bilbao, El Castillo and a very small Golon. But that's not all. To the south, about 20 km, lies the site La Democracia, and four kilometers further away Monte Alto, a place that is a true mystery because of the huge stone heads, most of which were - stolen.

It is not so hard to find the rests of El Baul: just come to the town of Santa Lucia Cotzumalguapa from Escuintla or Mazatenango, follow the signs for the newly-built Ciudad Espana. By the way, the road can be getting worse in that area, but they told me that soon there will be the major repair done. You have to find old sugar cane mill and then ask to be let into the parking lot.

There is lovely decorated museum setting in the open with the findings from the site of El Baul. Circa 50-60 stone sculptures, each duly tagged with an explanation. The museum also offers a lecture hall and a toilet. Nothing more. Beautifully worn heads of ancient people of power in various sizes. Then, people-fish, and people-coyotes.

I read among other things: "Today's Cotzumalguapa was most likely the seat of a powerful state that had political control over the vast Pacific Coast. The diffusion of their sculpting style gives the scale of their influence. This style is encountered along the 200 km of Pacific Ocean coast, from Southeast to today's Guatemala and El Salvador borders. We also find its strong presence in some parts of the Middle and East Highlands, especially in the Antigua Guatemala and Kaminaljuyú regions (today's Guatemala City). Some elements of style are noticeable in sculptures from various locations around Chimaltenango, the western Guatemalan Pacific, and in the valley of the Motagua River. "

This artistic style is characterized by a more realistic figurative fashion, with the attempt to create stelae filled with inscriptions, hieroglyphics, and by introducing death as the main theme and as the very nature of these sculptures.

Today's El Baul does not seem to exist. Namely, the North Acropolis (as I said previously that is located on private land) is the only rest of the site itself, while the southern acropolis was destroyed in 1997 when it was most likely used for the construction of Ciudad Espana and surrounding settlements. Neighboring (1.5 miles away) Bilbao was robbed by the Germans. At the end of the 19th century, the Royal Museum of Berlin sent a team that simply carved out its heads and removed the relief from the building. And everything was moved to Berlin museums. Luckily, those items had survived the WWII.

Guatemala is a country of history, of mostly Mayan history. But during the centuries various conquering nations had either destroyed or looted many of the goods that had survived the age. It is a very sad destiny for those priceless pieces of art and culture. Yes, Guatemala is one of those countries, like Egypt and India, that ask for the return of their heritage. So far, mostly in vain.

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El baul


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