This year’s Maya Spring Equinox celebrations at Caracol, Belize’s premier Maya archaeological site were a fitting kick-off to the 2012 equinox and solstice calendar, Chaa Creek’s Larry Waight said.
Mr Waight was among 60 participants in a special tour led by Dr Jaime Awe, director of the Belize Institute of Archaeology and one of the world’s foremost authorities on Maya civilisation.
“Work on the Caracol site has come a long way in recent years, and it now rivals Tikal and Chitzen Itza as a major Maya cultural destination,” Mr Waight said.
One of the ancient Maya world’s largest and most important city-states, Caracol sprawled across 65 square miles (168 km²) and contained an estimated population of between 120,000 to 180,000 inhabitants at its peak around 700 AD.
Over 20 miles of broad causeways radiated out of its centre like spokes of a wheel, linking a vast network of ceremonial, administrative and trade centres with farms, aquaculture ponds and habitations fed by one of the ancient world’s most impressive irrigation systems.
Dr Awe referred to Caracol as the Crown Jewel of Belize’s Maya sites, and said that today it is certainly one of the most impressive Maya archaeological sites to be found anywhere.
Covering 30 square miles of the 25,000 acre Caracol Archaeological Reserve established in Belize’s vast Chiquibul National Forest, the site contains five plazas, an astronomic observatory, ball courts and over 35,000 structures. The main building, Caana, Mayan for Sky Place, rises over 140 feet above the main plaza, making it the tallest manmade structure in Belize.
Mr Waight said the 2012 Spring Equinox celebration did justice to Caracol’s grandeur. After a two-and-a-half hour tour participants enjoyed a traditional Maya buffet with a menu that the ancient rulers would have found familiar, followed by another presentation by Dr Awe. A 2 am temple ceremony conducted by Maya shamans from Belize, Mexico and Guatemala prepared participants for the dawn of spring solstice as the sun rose over the temples and vast stretches of jungle canopy.
“It was one of those events you’ll remember all of your life. Dr Awe was able to put everything in a context that gave us an appreciation of what an amazingly advanced civilisation the Maya created deep in the rainforest, and the Maya shamans added a perspective that was very evocative and moving. Eating the same foods over the same stones where Spring Equinox ceremonies were conducted so many hundreds of years ago was an almost indescribable experience,” Mr Waight said.
Mr Waight also said that Chaa Creek will be hosting special tour packages for the Autumnal Equinox, the Summer Solstice and the long awaited Maya Winter Solstice of December 21 2012. “If this Spring Equinox was anything to go by, we have an incredible year ahead of us and the Winter Solstice of December 21 2012 will more than live up to its promise as a -once-in-a-lifetime experience,” he said.