Belize The Cradle of Civilisation? New Discoveries Unearth Interesting Facts About Our Earliest Settlers

With all this recent talk about immigration and climate change, some new discoveries in Belize may help put things in perspective.

As featured in various scientific publications, including a 22 July, 2019 article in the online Science Daily, “waves of immigrants” coming from North America some 13,000 years ago brought with them tool technologies that the earliest Belizean settlers used to adapt to a changing environment and eventually led to the highly advanced Maya civilisation that flourished in the region.

Researchers from the University of New Mexico (UNM) recently published the results of archaeological dig in Belize’s Bladen Nature Reserve that unearthed some of the very earliest stone tools used in southern Mesoamerica.

Belize UNM bladen dig
Courtesy of University of New Mexico

According to Keith Prufer, a UNM Department of Anthropology professor, “This is an area of research for which we have very poor data regarding early humans, though this UNM-led project is expanding our knowledge of human behaviour and relationships between people in North, Central and South America.”

In laymen’s terms, thanks to the UNM study we’re learning more about how immigrants from what is now the North America brought new technologies into Central America, and how the early inhabitants of what is now Belize used these new tools to adapt to a changing environment.

Sound familiar? Waves of immigrants, a changing environment, the need to adapt?

belize UNM bladen tools
Courtesy of University of New Mexico

But we digress…

The September 2019 issue of the respected Popular Archaeology also ran the story with the lead paragraph explaining:

“From the perspective of Central and South America, the peopling of the New World was a complex process lasting thousands of years and involving multiple waves of Pleistocene and early Holocene period immigrants entering into the Neotropics”.

We knew that the incredible ancient Maya civilisation, with its mind-boggling advances in mathematics, astronomy, science and medicine – not to mention developing a written language, papermaking, and vast libraries – didn’t just spring up out of nowhere, so this is another fascinating clue to the Maya puzzle.

massive maya city revealed by laser in Belize

And helps chart the course of humans going from hunter-gatherers to farming and living in communities – which led to civilisation, laws, arts, and all that good stuff.

As Professor Prufer explains, more work is “needed to better understand how knowledge and technologies were shared, and will contribute to our understanding of processes that eventually led to the development of agriculture and sedentary communities.”

We think it’s pretty cool that this work, and now the discovery of some of humankind’s earliest tools, were found in Belize, and, as Prof Prufer pointed out, with the help of local Maya communities and in partnership with Belize’s Ya’axche Conservation Trust.

And why do we think this is so important?

Because understanding our past helps to avoid future mistakes. Or, as Bob Marley put it, “In this bright future, you can’t forget your past.”

The findings also highlight an aspect of travel and tourism that Chaa Creek particularly promotes – cultural tourism and learning adventures.

Belize natural history center Maya at Chaa creek

If visitors can enjoy all the things that make for a great vacation – beautifully appointed accommodations, luxurious amenities and enjoyable activities, and learn something interesting at the same time, that’s a win for all concerned.

It’s all part of a commitment to sustainable tourism and responsible travel.


As Chaa Creek founding co-owner Lucy Fleming has said, “True sustainable tourism not only protects local environments and supports communities, it should also give travellers a deeper understanding and appreciation of the nature, cultures, and history of the host country.”

We couldn’t agree more.

You can see recent examples of this with the culture-meets-cooking classes at Chaa Creek’s Open Hearth learning adventure and the Macal River Camp’s evolution as an educational resource.

belize cooking classes at chaa creek open hearth kitchen

Also, these recent and future scientific discoveries show the value of Belize’s far-sighted commitment to preserve vast tracts of pristine rainforest and unspoiled Caribbean waters.

Who knows what further discovers lie beneath those vast jungle canopies and Caribbean seas?

Stay tuned…

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