Belize Archaeology

Written by Patricia Tunstall
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Ongoing Belize Archaeology

Belize archaeology is largely defined by the ruins of the great Maya civilization that flourished from about 2600 B.C. The accomplishments of these ancient people are amazing. They contributed the concept of the zero; built towers for the study of astronomy; built reservoirs to ensure a good water supply that still work! Maya descendants still live in Belize, and still believe that they were produced from the ceiba tree, the center of the universe, which holds up the heavens.

Tikal, located in northern El Peten, was a most important location, as shown by the more than 3,000 structures covering six square miles. Its significance is also indicated by the number of temples, ball courts, terraces, plazas, streets, and steam baths. The Great Plaza holds architecturally-impressive temples dating to 150 B.C. that required about 2,000 tons of material for their construction!

Orange Walk and Cayo Sites

Most Belize vacation packages include one or more trips to Maya ruins because of their scientific importance and their awe-inspiring appearance. The most extensive ruins are at Caracol, whose 139-foot pyramid is the tallest building in Belize! Caracol covers 30 square miles of dense rain forest and archaeologists estimate that 180,000 people lived here at its peak about 700 A.D. This is one of many sites available through Belize travel packages that are continuing to be recovered from the jungle.

Lamanai, which means "submerged crocodile," was a magnificent ceremonial center. In front of one temple stands a 13-foot statue of a Maya king. This locale has a museum, restrooms, and a covered picnic area. A vital trading link between coastal Maya and inland Maya was provided by Altun Ha, "Stone Water." This site was active from about 250-900 A.D. An exciting discovery for Belize archaeology was the largest jade carving in the Maya world, a representation of the Sun God Kinich Ahau, who appears on the Belize dollar.

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