The approach of 2012 is bringing increased attention on the ancient Maya civilisation of Belize and her neighbours, and, as usual with this fascinating, enigmatic civilisation, there are more questions than answers. One of the big questions is: how did Maya urban centres sustain such large populations in areas modern people would consider to be inhospitable?
Situated some 12 kilometres north of San Ignacio town and straddling the Belize – Guatemala border, El Pilar’s 100 acres contains over 25 plazas, temples, palaces, residential structures, and causeways. Inhabited continuously between 800BC and 1,000AD, it supported a population of over 20,000 at its peak, and was one of the most important centres of the Lowland Maya. For us, one of the more interesting aspects of El Pilar is not just what has been found, but the way in which the research is carried out.