Giant pyramid built by the Maya was made from rock spewed by a volcano

Scientists recently discovered that Maya builders constructed a huge pyramid from rock that had been ejected from a volcano some 1,500 years ago. This eruption was so powerful that it chilled the entire planet.
The eruption of the Ilopango caldera in El Salvador's San Andrs area, around A.D. 539 was the most significant volcanic event in Central America for the past 10,000 years. The Tierra Blanca Jovi (TBJ) eruption is known for producing lava flows that spanned dozens of miles and so much ash into Central America's atmosphere that it cooled the Northern Hemisphere. Researchers previously reported that this volcano was responsible for the infamous Tierra Blanca Joven eruption.

Scientists believed that many Mayan settlements in the area were destroyed by the volcano. This could have been for hundreds of years. Akira Ichikawa (a Mesoamerican archaeologist) recently examined the Campana pyramid and found that the people who built the monument in just a few decades after the eruption.

Related: In photos: Hidden Maya civilization

A new analysis of the pyramid revealed that Maya builders used cut stone blocks and soil to build it. It is located approximately 25 miles (40 km) from the Zapotitn Valley volcano. Ichikawa stated that this is the first evidence of volcanic ejecta being used in the construction a Mayan pyramid. It could also reflect the spiritual significance volcanoes have in Mayan culture.

For decades, scholars have been debating the date of the TBJ eruption. Some argue that it occurred between A.D. 270-A.D. 400, Ichikawa writes in the new study published in Antiquity. Ichikawa stated that radiocarbon dating, which compares radioactive carbon isotopes in tree trunks from El Salvador, suggested that A.D.539 was a more accurate date.

The Campana pyramid is perched on a platform measuring nearly 20 feet (6 m), 262 feet (80m) long, 180 feet (55m) wide and 43 feet (13m) high. There are four terraces on the platform and a wide central staircase. It was the first building constructed in the San Andrs area of the valley after the TBJ eruption. This would have buried a lot of the valley below 2 feet (0.5 m) of ash according to the study.

Ichikawa used carbon samples from various building materials to calculate the age of the pyramid. He dates them between A.D. 545 - A.D.570. Ichikawa stated that this suggested that people had returned to the site and started construction on the pyramid much sooner than they expected.

3D Plan of Campana Structure, showing the location of excavations that uncovered the stone monument as well as evidence of the TBJ explosion. Copyright Antiquity Publications Ltd/Courtesy A. Ichikawa.

Live Science received an email from him revealing that the amount of tephra found in the pyramid was also quite surprising. Payson Sheets, a UCB archaeologist, discovered tephra about a decade ago in a Mayan "sacbe", or "white road", an elevated thoroughfare near Joya de Cern. Ichikawa explained that Cern's prehistoric farming community was also located in El Salvador. It was buried by a volcanic eruption in the year 600.

Campana, however, is the first Mayan monument to use tephra for construction. According to the study, Cern's sacbe contained white-ash tephra that "may have been perceivable to have powerful religious and cosmological meaning" due to its volcanic origin. Tephra could have had similar significance in the Campana pyramid.

Many environmental and climate disasters, like volcanic eruptions, can be linked to the decline or collapse of ancient civilizations. In Ptolemaic Egyptian (305 B.C. To 30 B.C. The eruption of an Alaskan volcano in 43 B.C. may have brought down an ancient dynasty. Live Science reported that the volcano could have also brought down the Roman Republic. Ichikawa stated that the Campana structure is a telling story. It shows that ancient people are capable of rebuilding from the ashes. They were also more flexible, resilient, and innovative than previously thought.

Original publication on Live Science