|Artist's idea of Cahal Pech|
It turns out that Cahal Pech was a trading center, but certainly not the oldest of the Mayan sites in Belize. People have been occupying the land and ceremonial center at Lamanai since 2500 BC. Coello and Cerros have the oldest pottery to date.
From what is now known from the archeological digs, it would appear that Belize certainly has many of the oldest ruins. Mayan civilization got its start in the lowlands of the Yucatan peninsula, including what is now Belize.
Altun Ha is the most accessible site from Belize City and is frequented by cruise ship tour groups. It is generally packed with people Mondays through Thursdays during the peak season. Found at Altun Ha, in a tomb, was one of the largest solid jade objects ever made, the carved head of the Sun God Kinich Ahau. It resides in the Museum of Belize when it's not on loan to other museums.
|Temple mask at Lamanai|
From Orange Walk's toll bridge, tourists can arrange for a boat tour to Lamanai, which means submerged crocodile. The tour includes a guide. It is an impressive site with a small museum, nice restrooms, some vendors, and a picnic area. Several of the monuments have enormous masks on both sides of the stairway leading to the top. And the jungle around it is filled with monkeys, butterflies, and birds, including the rare trogan.
Coello is not far from Orange walk and is considered by many to be the oldest in Belize.
On the western edge of the country, there are dozens of sites, many of which are not open to the public, and are only barely excavated.
Xunantunich is right on the border of Guatemala, and a short taxi or bus ride from San Ignacio. There is a hand cranked ferry (for cars!) that crosses the slow moving river. Uphill about a mile is the ceremonial center. El Castillo rises 39 meters and is the tallest pyramid in Belize. A climb to the top reveals a wide vista of the entire area. It's easy to see the practical aspect of towering platforms. Light signals could easily be sent at night from one city to the next. In addition astronomical studies were performed continuously by the priests. The Mayan calendar is based on astronomy, and due to their precise measurements of the cosmos, the calendar is far more accurate than our modern ones.
For anyone interested in the Mayan civilization, Belize should definitely be on the itinerary.
|View from El Castillo, Xunantunich|
|Cahal Pech, the great plaza|
|Partially reconstructed temple at Cahal Pech|
|Iguana in the jungle|