MAYAN RUIN ADVENTURE TOURS
Today, archeologists are still not sure what led to the large-scale collapse of their civilization and the abandonment of most of their still-intact cities, pyramids, and temples. Competing theories of climate control, civil war, and societal unrest have been put forward to explain how the Maya nearly vanished in the centuries before the arrival of the Europeans.
At the height of their civilization, it is estimated that the Maya had a population of more than one million, more than four times their current population. Although greatly reduced in numbers by the vagaries of history, the Maya continue to thrive in Belize, proud preservationists of their language, traditions, crafts, dance, music, and healing knowledge.
Beyond the impressive stone cities rising out of the jungle, other important Maya sites in Belize include sacred cave complexes. Believed by the ancient Maya to be a nexus between the world of men and the world of the gods, sacred caves such as Actun Tunichil Muknal (ATM) were the site of some of their most important religious rituals, including human sacrifice.
Perhaps the most iconic Maya ruin in Belize is Xunantunich in the country's western Cayo District. The site of impressive pyramids and a panoramic view of the Mopan River, Xunantunich is where archeologists in the summer of 2016 discovered the largest Maya royal tomb ever unearthed.
One of the most famous Maya city states to have been rediscovered in the modern era is Tikal just across the border in neighboring Guatemala. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Tikal is home to soaring temples measuring 154 feet (47 meters) high.
Maya Ruins in Belize
The warm climate, fertile soil, and extensive network of rivers and offshore islands made Belize one of the most heavily populated centers of the ancient Maya world. Enormous cities with colossal pyramids and palaces were built all across modern day Belize. Sites such as Xunantunich and Caracol vied with dynasties in Tikal, just down the Belize River in what is now modern-day Guatemala, for control of the area.
Although many of the ancient Maya's most amazing cities have been excavated, sites like Altun Ha, Caracol, Xunantunich, and Nim Li Punit, many more cities still await discovery, hidden beneath the dense foliage of the jungle. In addition to their fabulous cities of nearly unimaginable wealth, the Maya also frequently made use of the hundreds of caves found in Belize. According to the Maya religion, caves were sacred spaces, considered a nexus between the world of humans and those of the gods. Today, many of the ancient Maya's ceremonial caves have been re-discovered, untouched for thousands of years and containing altars, ritual objects, and even the remains of sacrificial victims.
Today, there are many Maya communities across Belize, the living descendants of the ancient civilization that invented its own form of writing and made precise astronomical calculations.
If you are interested in learning more about the Maya in Belize, contact Caves Branch Lodge today.