“All is silent and calm. Hushed and empty is the womb of the sky. THESE, then, are the first words, the first speech.” Thus begins The Popol Vuh, the Maya creation myth. A terrific tale relating how all things came into being. The Mighty Maya history spans over 3000 years across Central America from the Pacific to the Caribbean, as far north as Mexico and south into Honduras and El Salvador. Some of the earliest known settlements are the Maya ruins in the Belize River Valley. Cody and I visited the small but ancient site of Cahal Pech, a short morning’s walk from our charming hotel of similar name.
Friendly staff, panoramic views, modest rooms, and an excellent restaurant La Ixtabai
Walking to Cahal Pech
The walkway leads to this Large Temple and Plaza- likely used for markets, festivals and events
Atop Temple looking across Plaza to entrance into the Royal Residence
Cahal Pech's origins begin around 1200 BC. During peak population 300 BC to 300 AD, as many as 10,000 to 15,000 people lived in the surrounding fertile area known as the Belize River Valley. The site consists of 34 large structures. Although many of the structures’ surfaces are rocky, during occupation the exterior was covered with smooth brightly painted limestone.
small interior plaza
An Elite residence
Remnant of painted limestone surface
Many of the Maya cities lay beneath the jungle floor. Every year, new archaeological findings contribute to the understanding of an advanced civilization, from astronomy, math, music, art, architecture, and language, to a sophisticated society with organized religion, government, record keeping, and agriculture. Cahal Pech is a primitive site with a highly advanced structure. The largest building is believed to be a Royal Palace or Administrative Building used only by the ruling elite.
Exterior View of Royal Palace
The Royal Palace from main interior plaza
The site was abandoned approximately 900 AD. Recent archaeology findings of sediment layers at the Great Blue Hole in the Caribbean have revealed a major drought in the area from 800-900 AD which may have contributed to site abandonment. Another possible reason is conquest by another great Maya ruler. Cahal Pech is the ancient beginnings of a advanced society. Although the site was abandoned, the Maya civilization existed until the Spanish invasion in the 1500's. Disease and conquest were the eventual ruin. Today there are over 10 million Maya living in Mexico, Guatemala, and Belize. To learn more about Cahal Pech visit the Belize Institute of Archaeology website: http://www.nichbelize.org/ia-maya-sites/archaeology-of-cahal-pech.html
If you wish to visit Belize and the spectacular Maya ruins in the Belize River Valley, we recommend the Cahal Pech Village Resort. The hotel rooms and cabanas have pleasant views overlooking the valley below. There is a delicious restaurant (the shrimp ceviche was the best I ever had and a great breakfast buffet) and 2 pools. Tours of the surrounding area can be booked thru the hotel. www.cahalpech.com
Local Artist rendering of Cahal Pech Village Resort (Artist name not available)