New Archaeology Finds in Belize
It’s no secret that Chaa Creek sits in the very heartland of the ancient Maya Empire. Situated between the huge metropolis of Caracol, which boasted a population larger than present day Belize City, and the nearby ancient city of Tikal in what is modern Guatemala, the land that the Lodge at Chaa Creek sits on today was an important agricultural and trade centre, with the Macal River providing both a lively transport route and water for irrigation.
So it’s no wonder that many of us connected to Chaa Creek are keen Mayanists, even if just on an amateur level. How could you not be when the 365 acre private nature reserve surrounding Chaa Creek contains some 70 recorded ancient Maya archaeological sites, and just about every time you did a hole in the ground you’re likely to find at least a shard of pottery, if not a spear head or other treasure? For example, when Chaa Creek’s owners decided to run electrical power to the eco resort’s gift shop the workers digging the ditch for the cables uncovered a perfectly intact chultun, an underground storage or sometimes brewing chamber.
Visit the Lodge’s Belize Natural History Centre and you’ll see all sorts of examples of archaeological finds, as well as some interesting remains of ancient fauna. Of course, every find is immediately recorded with the Department of Archaeology and the department’s director, Dr Jaime Awe, who is widely regarded as the world’s foremost Mayanist, often supervises further work.
We mention this to explain our excitement about a recent find in northwestern Belize called Tulix Mu. At first it was considered just another overgrown ancient Early Classic Maya site that contained at least two standing vaulted rooms and was interesting, but not particularly exciting.
But then came the “Wow Moment”. Researchers found, beneath the plaster in one of the rooms, fragments of a polychrome, fine-line mural similar to one found years earlier by other archaeologists at San Bartolo in Guatemala. It’s an exciting find because there have only been a few other such Maya murals found in all of Mexico and Central America.
The magazine “Popular Archaeology” has reported on the find, and we’re following it closely here in Belize because the more such unique sites are discovered, the more we learn about Belize’s rich Maya heritage and get a better picture of this enigmatic ancient civilisation.
The ancient Maya were among the world’s first paper makers, but the Spanish Conquistadors, who considered these vast repositories of knowledge as the devil’s work, burnt their huge libraries to the ground. Most of what we know about the early Maya, who were the ancient world’s foremost astronomers, mathematicians, physicians and boasted one of the most advanced societies of the time come from fragments such as the Dresden Codex and bits and pieces found at sites such as Tulix Mu.
You can understand our excitement every time something like this is found, and we keep wondering what else is waiting to be discovered in Belize’s huge tracts of wilderness. Will one of these murals provide another key to an as yet undiscovered storehouse of knowledge? We believe that someday an important find will clarify many of the questions that remain about Belize’s oldest inhabitants, and keep looking forward to that day.
Until then, we’ll keep our readers abreast of new finds and discoveries.