Belize is seen as the heart of the Mayan civilization, and you can find a vast array of Mayan sites close to this location. From 250 to 900 AD, numerous sites have been built in the region, to the point where many of them started to host tens of thousands of people. And while there are some very large Mayan sites in the region, there are others that also bring quite an interesting significance here. We are talking about the Cahal Pech Mayan Site!
What is the Cahal Pech Mayan Site and where can you find it?
Cahal Pech is a Mayan site that seems to date back from 1200 BCE. Many consider it to be a part of the Early Middle Formative period. This is one of the oldest Mayan sites in the Western Belize region and also one of the oldest sites as a whole from all over the world.
You can find the Cahal Pech Mayan site near San Ignacio. As a result, it can be incredibly easy to visit the site as a tourist, as there are many cabs and tourist packages that go from San Ignacio to the site on a daily basis. One of the things to note about the Cahal Pech site is that it’s found in the Cayo District.
Unlike other Maya sites in the region, Cahal Pech was a hilltop home or palace for an elite family. It’s not just a simple home; it’s one that has a whole lot of ornaments and plenty of other distinct things that you will appreciate right from the start. Many of the constructions are from the Classic period, but as we mentioned earlier, there are some that were built at aro9und 1200 BCE. Like most Maya sites, this one was inhabited until 99 CE.
The real location of the Cahal Pech site is right near the Macal River banks. Like many of the other Maya sites and cities, this one was also placed strategically by its builders. The location was perfect for monitoring the Mopan River and Macal River confluence.
Within the Cahal Pech site, you can find 34 different structures. These differ in height, importance and usage. A thing to keep in mind here is the fact that the tallest temple in the Cahal Pech site has 25 meters in height and it’s placed right above the Acropolis in the central area.
No one knows why the Cahal Pech site was abandoned in the first place. There are some ideas such as something related to a flood of the site and the neighboring region. These are just rumors, though; no one knows for sure. It wasn’t a place with a great rural area, so the Cahal Pech people most likely were forced to go away from the site by nature or they migrated to a new location.
Things to note about Cahal Pech
Maybe one of the most important things you have to keep in mind about the Cahal Pech site is that it’s the place where you can find the earliest pottery in the history of Western Belize. On top of that, the name of the site is very distinct; it means the Place of Ticks. The name for this region was coined in the 1950s mostly when the area was used as a pasture.
As you can imagine, the site looked a lot different when compared to its current look. Studies have shown that the buildings were covered with plaster. Most of them were painted in a combination of white and red. The courtyards also had a similar coat of paint on them. Pretty much like the modern cities, Cahal Pech didn’t have that many trees. Even though numerous trees have grown in the region since Cahal Pech was deserted, it’s clear that this was the direction people wanted to have here.
The most important place for the entire Cahal Pech site was the Plaza B. All people that lived in the region had to come to this Plaza B to participate in a wide array of events. These events varied in magnitude, size and importance.
Since this was a palace, it’s important to note that the entire structure also had a particular structure dedicated solely to guests.
All the buildings outside the central area were created with thatch and pole. They were mostly placed on some stone platforms for better durability. If that wasn’t the case, people chose to build them directly on the ground.
Cahal Pech supported quite a lot of individuals. Some say that around 15000 lived here during its peak. But this also includes the neighboring regions including the valley. A thing to keep in mind here is that Cahal Pech does have an excellent connectivity with Buena Vista, El Pilar and Xunantunich. This might mean that, at some point, the region did host even more people.
Trading and commerce
Archeological digs have managed to uncover some interesting things about the Cahal Pech site. Maybe the most important, relevant thing to note about the site is that it brought in multiple trading opportunities. It’s easy to understand why that might happen because the Cahal Pech site was indeed connected with all the neighboring cities for a very long time.
Specialists say that trading in this region started at around 1000 BC and it continued for many centuries. The inhabitants were interested in getting conch shells, jade, salt, and obsidian. This allowed them to forge some powerful connections with the local community.
It’s easy to see why Cahal Pech was very popular for traders. Its unique location, pretty much at the confluence of the western and eastern branches of the Belize River, made it easy for the inhabitants to reach other cities and trade with them.
You can find many statues in Cahal Pech, but maybe the most interesting thing about the region is that you can find multiple graffiti examples. These were carved into a variety of items. You can find ceramic sherd graffiti, while others can be seen on the walls. It’s unclear who created these works of art, but they did stand the test of time. Aside from that, Cahal Pech is also home to a wide range of figurines. These clearly show the unique inclination that people in this region had for art and sculptures as a whole.
The figurines you can find here focus on mostly three types of creatures. You can find whistles, zoomorphs, and anthropomorphs. Whistles and figurines found at the Cahal Pech were mostly stored in secret locations, so they did have a very important role for the locals.
And since we are talking about the Mayan culture, you can imagine that the Cahal Pech site did have its ball courts. Yes, there are two ball courts here. One was located right near the Plaza C, while the other can be found on the western side of the Acropolis.
Aside from that, during the Cahal Pech visit, you will find one major altar as well as eight stelae. This clearly shows the unique dedication that the Mayan society had to their culture at that time and how impressive the experience was for the long term.
Is the Cahal Pech site currently being restored?
Restoring Mayan sites is many times a subject of controversy. However, there are situations where restoring this type of site is justified. This clearly shows that people want to view these sites in their beautiful appeal, while others do want to preserve them the way they are.
The primary excavation in Cahal Pech started in 1988. Thankfully, the site was restored until 2000, and now it takes visitors without any problem. At this time, Cahal Pech is an archeological reserve, and it hosts a multitude of artifacts from the region.
Yes, unlike other sites in the area, the Cahal Pech is fully restored and ready for visitors. It’s great to have a location like this available for the public, and it’s amazing to see how even an old place like this manages to attract thousands upon thousands of tourists each year.
Should you visit the Cahal Pech site?
The Cahal Pech site is by far one of the most exciting and visually impressive Mayan sites in its region. If you enjoy the idea of visiting a Mayan site, then you might consider giving Cahal Pech a try. It’s a distinct, one of a kind location that you will enjoy for sure and the value will be very well worth it right from the start. While there are some rules that you need to obey when you visit the site, you will see that these are not strict. On the contrary, you will be very impressed with the beautiful atmosphere and exotic appeal delivered here. Nothing is impossible when you visit this location, as you get to reconnect yourself with nature and a time long gone. You should consider checking out the Cahal Pech Mayan site right now; you will enjoy visiting it!