The Belize Maya Guide
is blessed with an outstanding
archaeological heritage of Maya
temples and palaces.
It is known that the Maya occupation began as
early as 1500 B.C., and although it began its decline in 900 A.D.
Click any Pictures to enlarge
Maya cultural centers continued to be occupied until contact with the
Spanish in the 1500's. During the classic period (250 A.D. to 900
A.D.), the population of Belize exceeded well over one million people,
and it is believed that Belize was the heart of the Maya civilization
at that time. Although large Maya cultural centers no longer exist,
there is still a significant Maya population residing within many small
This site is a
part of our new Maya section, as soon a new Maya site is online
we will complete all the corresponding data and maps. Look
at the brand new Altun
Pages. Please come back
(last update 25.
Accessible Belize Maya Sites
Perhaps the most important, Caracol ('the snail' in
Spanish), is located in the Cayo District, near the border with
and within the Belizean part of the Peten rainforest.
center of one of the largest Maya kingdoms and today
contains the extant remains of thousands of structures, covering
some 168 km² (65 sqm) with an estimated peak population of
about 120,000, or possibly as many as 180'000 people. One monument here
records a military victory over the army of Tikal in 562CE, where
Caracol's Lord Water is shown to have captured and sacrificed Tikal's
This entry will be soon replaced with a new Caracol Page.
The site of Cerros, is in the Corazol District, at the mouth of the New
where it empties into Chetumal Bay in northern
as one of the earliest Maya sites, reaching its
apogee during the Late Preclassic on Chetumal Bay, and for the presence
of an E-Group, a unique structural complex found in Maya architecture.
As such, the site had access to and served as an intermediary link
between the coastal trade route that circumnavigated the Yucatán
Peninsulacanal system and utilized raised-field agriculture. Even
today, much of the site remains unexcavated.
This entry will be soon replaced with a new Cerros Page.
Lubaantun is in Belize's Toledo District, about 42 kilometres (26 mi)
northwest of Punta Gorda, and approximately 3.2
kilometres (2 mi) from the village of San Pedro Columbia.
the Maya Classic era, flourishing
from the 730's to
the 890's AD, and seems to have been completely abandoned soon after.
The architecture is somewhat unusual from typical Classical central
lowlands Maya sites. Lubaantun's structures are mostly built of large
stone blocks laid with no mortar, primarily black slate rather than the
typical of the region.
The centre of the Lubaantun on a large artificially raised platform
between two small rivers. It has often been noted that the situation is
well-suited to military defense. The ancient name of the site is
currently unknown; "Lubaantun" is a modern Maya name meaning "place of
Several structures have distinctive "in-and-out
masonry"; each tier is built with a batter, every second course
projecting slightly beyond the course below it. Corners of the
step-pyramids are usually rounded, and lack stone structures atop the
pyramids; presumably some had structures of perishable materials in
This entry will be soon replaced with a new Lubaantun Page.
The Crystal Skull
famous crystal skull
is the Mitchell-Hedges "skull of doom" allegedly discovered by a
17-year old Anna Mitchell-Hedges in 1924 or 1927 while accompanying her
adoptive father on an excavation of the ancient Mayan city of Lubaantun
more about the mystery of this crystal skull on our
Skull Mysterie Page.
other Mesoamerican civilizations, the
Maya used a base 20 (vigesimal) and base 5 numbering system (see Maya
numerals). Also, the preclassic Maya and their neighbors
developed the concept of zero by 36 BC. Inscriptions show them on
working with sums up to the hundreds of millions and dates so large it
take several lines just to represent it.
|The Maya had
the length of the solar year to a high degree of accuracy, far more
than that used in Europe as the basis
Gregorian Calendar. They did not use this figure for the length of year
their calendar, however. The calendar they used was crude, being based
year length of exactly 365 days, which means that the calendar falls
step with the seasons by one day every four years. By comparison, the
calendar, used in Europe from Roman
until about the 16th Century, accumulated an error of only one day
some evidence to suggest the Maya appear
to be the only pre-telescopic civilization to demonstrate knowledge of
Orion Nebula as being fuzzy, i.e. not a stellar pin-point. The
which supports this theory comes from a folk tale that deals with the
area of the sky.
traditional hearths include in their middle a smudge of
glowing fire that corresponds with the Orion Nebula. This is a
to support the idea that the Maya detected a diffuse area of the sky
to the pin points of stars before the telescope was invented. Many
sites are oriented with the Pleiades and Eta Draconis, as seen in La
Ujuxte, Monte Alto, and Takalik Abaj.
The Maya were very interested in zenial passages, the time
when the sun passes directly overhead. The latitude of most of their
being below the Tropic of Cancer, these zenial passages would occur
year equidistant from the solstice. To represent this position of the
overhead, the Maya had a god named Diving God.
The Maya believed in
a cyclical nature of time. The rituals and ceremonies were very closely
associated with celestial/terrestrial cycles which they observed and
as separate calendars. The Maya priest had the job of interpreting
and giving a prophetic outlook on the future or past based on the
relations of all their calendars.
|The Priest also had to determine if the
"heavens" or celestial matters were appropriate for performing
certain religious ceremonies.
The Maya practiced human
sacrifice. In some Maya rituals
people were killed by having their arms and legs held while a priest
person's chest open and tore out his heart as an offering. This is
ancient objects such as pictorial texts, known as codices (singular:
is believed that children were often offered as sacrificial victims
they were believed to be pure.
The life-cycle of maize
the heart of Maya belief.
This philosophy is demonstrated on the Maya belief in the Maize God as
central religious figure. The Maya bodily ideal is also based on the
the young Maize God, which is demonstrated in their artwork. The Maize
also a model of courtly life for the Classical Maya.
Philosophically, the Maya believed that
meant knowing the cyclical influences that create the present, and by
the influences of the present one can see the cyclical influences of
system (often call hieroglyphs from a superficial resemblance to the
Ancient Egyptian writing) was a combination of phonetic symbols and
logograms. It is most often classified as a logographic or (more
properly) a logosyllabic writing system, in which syllabic
signs play a significant role.
|It is the only writing system of the
Pre-Columbian New World which is known to completely represent the
spoken language of its community. In total, the script has more than a
thousand different glyphs,
although a few are variations of the same sign or meaning, and many
appear only rarely or are confined to particular localities. At any one
time, no more than around 500 glyphs were in use, some 200 of which
(including variations) had a phonetic or syllabic interpretation.
The ancient Maya had
sophisticated methods of
food production. It was formerly believed that shifting cultivation
agriculture provided most of their food but it is now thought that
raised fields, terracing, forest gardens, managed fallows, and wild
were also crucial to supporting the large populations of the Classic
evidence of these different agricultural systems persist
today: raised fields connected by canals can be seen on aerial
contemporary rainforest species composition has significantly higher
of species of economic value to ancient Maya, and pollen records in
suggest that corn, manioc, sunflower seeds, cotton, and other crops
cultivated in association with the deforestation in Mesoamerica since
Maya peoples still practice many of these
traditional forms of agriculture, although they are dynamic systems and
with changing population pressures, cultures, economic systems, climate
and the availability of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides.
Based on the
agricultural methods of Maya
peoples and other Mesoamerican peoples, milpa agriculture produces
maize, beans, lima beans
and squash. The milpa cycle calls for 2 years of
cultivation and eight years of letting the area lie fallow.
out that the system is designed to create relatively large yields of
food crops without the use of artificial pesticides or fertilizers, and
they point out that it is self-sustaining at current levels of
consumption, but there is a danger that at more "A milpa is a field,
usually but not always recently cleared, in which farmers plant a dozen
crops at once including maize, avocados, multiple varieties of squash
and bean, melon, tomatoes, chilis, sweet potato, jícama,
amaranth, and mucana....
Milpa crops are nutritionally and environmentally complementary. Maize
lacks the amino acids lysine and tryptophan, which the body needs to
make proteins and niacin;.... Beans have both lysine and tryptophan....
Squashes, for their part, provide an array of vitamins; avocados, fats.
The milpa, in the estimation of H. Garrison Wilkes, a maize researcher
at the University of Massachusetts in Boston, "is one of the most
successful human inventions ever created."