Author:Annick Jo Elvire Daneels (Institute of Anthropological Research)
Paper short abstract:
This paper presents the insights derived from archaeological and ethnographical evidence of Mexico and Central America that allow reconstructing the traditional knowledge of earthen architecture in the humid tropics, an environment generally considered adverse for this type of construction.
Paper long abstract:
Earthen architecture is a cheap, sustainable and bioclimatic alternative for housing, but its use in humid tropical conditions requires the development of specific strategies to make the raw earth surfaces resistant to heavy rains. Little understood, due to attention being lavished on building traditions in arid and semi- arid regions, earthen architecture in humid tropics is and has been successfully made and used through time for family and community dwellings in Mexico and Central America.
This paper presents data from a first millennium AD archaeological site on the Mexican Gulf Coast, where earth was used as a building material for monumental architecture (pyramids, palaces, ball courts). A multidisciplinary team researches the mineralogical, physical and chemical properties of the surface facings that made the buildings resistant to the adverse climatic conditions. On the other hand, ethnographic data from contemporary vernacular building in humid tropical valleys of Guatemala and El Salvador provide clues for the possible organic substances that gave the consolidant and hydrofugant quality to the facings. These converging lines of evidence may allow reconstructing the traditional technique for monumental earthen architecture developed by the Mesoamerican cultures.
Indigenous knowledge and sustainable development (IUAES Commission on Indigenous Knowledge and Sustainable Development)