The El Paraíso Valley is located in northwestern Honduras near the border between what are now Honduras and Guatemala. Like their modern counterparts, the pre-Columbian residents of the valley occupied an important frontier zone, negotiating interaction among groups with different political, economic, and ethnic affiliations.
In the Classic period (AD 400-900), the valley included two large centers, now known as El Paraíso and El Cafetal, located within 1.5 km of one another. Architectural styles, residential patterns, and material culture suggest that the residents of each had ties of varying closeness with neighboring centers: the occupants of El Paraíso were more closely affiliated with their counterparts at the Maya centers of Copan (27 km to the southwest) and Quirigua (30 km to the north), while residents of El Cafetal enjoyed closer ties with Lenca neighbors at the site of El Puente (20 km to the east). The presence of two large, contemporaneous centers within such close proximity suggests that the region served as a multi-ethnic cross-roads, mediating contact among disparate groups in the surrounding area.
Evidence from hieroglyphic inscriptions at Copan and Quirigua suggests that control over centers like El Paraíso was fiercely contested, and that the allegiance of residents of such center shifted frequently. This situation may have allowed local elites to play would-be overlords off against one another to their own advantage, or it may have found them caught in the midst of constant conflict.
The Proyecto Arqueológico Regional El Paraíso (the El Paraíso Region Archaeological Project--PAREP) was established in 2002 to explore these and other questions through an integrated program of archaeological reconnaissance, mapping, excavation, and analysis. Since its inception, PAREP has also included a cultural anthropology program (currently focused on the compilation of oral histories), and a program of community outreach designed to engage local residents in the investigation, protection, and development of the archaeological sites in the region and to foster an understanding of and appreciation for local prehistory. The PAREP staff includes researchers from the U.S., Honduras, and Europe, and is composed of professional archaeologists, undergraduate and graduate students from colleges and universities in Honduras and the U.S., and local residents who assist in all facets of the project.
Project Proposals, Reports, and Informes:
El Paraíso: Gateway to the SE Maya Periphery
Classic Maya Borders and Frontiers: Excavations at El Paraíso, Copan, Honduras, 2003
PAREP Informe Preliminar 2002
PAREP Informe Preliminar 2004
Undergraduate and Graduate Theses
El Paraíso (PAREP) 2006
Naco Valley Project (PVN) 1988-1998(?)
Caculapa (PVC) 2000-2004, 2008