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Ancient City – Caracol, Belize
Posted In: Ancient Civilizations  9/15/11
By: Yona Williams

During the 6th century AD, the Mayans lived in Caracol – establishing the region as an important city at the time. It took centuries for the existence of the city to reemerge when it was rediscovered by a woodcutter in 1938. Before then, it was concealed from the world and left in ruins in the west-central section of Belize (close to the border of Guatemala. Archeologists uncovered royal tombs, pyramids and Mayan art. In this article, you will learn more about the history of the ancient city.

Caracol represented the largest Mayan site in Belize, which was once spread across 88 square kilometers of land. The population reached about 140,000 people at one point. The history of inhabitants in Caracol is traced back to as early as 900 BC with the first known Mayan ritual complexes dating back to around 70 AD. This is when the Temple of the Wooden Lintel and locus B34 burial were constructed. Around 150 AD, the same site was home to an additional burial site.

The royals associated with Caracol were recognized in 331, which added to the increase of power that the city enjoyed. Over the next two centuries, the city would continue to grow and prosper. The key accomplishments of the city were made between the 6th and 8th centuries. In 562, the city defeated the Mayan city of Tikal. They took over the leadership duties of the region as a result. In 631, they enjoyed another victory when they triumphed over a rival city called Naranjo. Unfortunately, a rapid decline followed after the 8th century.

A stele at Caracol offers many answers to the history of the city. The last date recorded on this monument was in 859. By 1050, the city was completely abandoned. Because no one was there to maintain the land, the jungle consumed the ancient city and became a forgotten gem of the country.

Archeologists made their way to the ancient city around 1952 so that they could study the region and the artifacts left behind by the people. Before they could explore, the jungle needed to be cleared. This is why extensive archeological work did not start until 1985. The lead archeologists on the project came from the University of Central Florida – Diane Chase and Arlen Chase. In 1998, an onsite museum was opened and excavations are still in progress to this day.

Archeologists have found more than 100 tombs at the site, which include many revealing hieroglyphic inscriptions that shed light on the ancient history of the city. Other features of the city that have been uncovered include two ball courts, three main plazas, pyramid temples and other structures.

Tourists that come to Belize often add the ancient city to their list of places to see. They travel to west-central Belize to reach Caracol in the Chiquibil Forest Reserve. The site is referred to as the Caracol Archaeological Reserve.


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