Cahal Pech Mayan ruins, Belize


Cahal Pech

130 meter high temple at Cahal Pech

Twenty five meter high temple, largest at Cahal Pech

On the hills in San Ignacio are the remnants of a late Mayan ruins, Cahal Pech, on a hill with a view of the joining of the Mopan and Macal rivers. Cahal Pech translates into ‘Place of the Ticks‘ which is probably the least attractive name you could imagine for any location.  The name was bestowed when the first excavations began at the site in the 1980’s and archeologists found it infected with nasty ticks.

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Archeologists believe there were inhabitants in this area dating back to 1200 BC.  Mayan relics indicate Cahal Pech was settled in the early pre classic period making it one of the oldest Mayan sites in Belize.  But it was abandoned for unknowns reasons around 900 AD when Tikal was abandoned.

The site is within a national trust and has a small museum with artifacts, hieroglyphs, and relics from an ancient grave site with jade ornaments around the bones indicating the person had the status of wealth or stature.

Cahal Pech is a relatively small Mayan site with 38 structures within a confined area with two temples, courtyards, and a central acropolis. Two other Mayan sites are near San Ignacio, Chaa Creek and Xunantunich.

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Courtyard at base of temple

Courtyard at base of temple

Lucy walking along base of temple on narrow path above courtyard 10 meters below

Lucy walking along base of temple on narrow path above courtyard 10 meters below

Passageway between temple courtyards

Passageway between temple courtyards

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Mayan arched vaulted doorways

The Mayans used an interesting feature in their structures, arched vaulted doors.  We saw them in Tikal and at Cahal Pech.  They have an interesting visual appeal.  I wondered if they had a religious significance, or were more prosaic.  They are rounded at the top with sloping side vaults, possibly to accommodate people walking under, the top of the arched vault matching the dimensions of their heads and shoulders.

Imagine walking behind someone going through the doorway, seeing the frame accommodating the upper part of a human body.

Vaulted arch leading to outside plaza

Vaulted arch leading to outside plaza

Double vaulted arches

Double vaulted arches

Vaulted arched doorway

Vaulted arched doorway

Time to check for ticks

Time to check for ticks

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* * * * *

Join us on our month exploring Central America.  We’d like to hear from you!

Next:  Horse back riding near Arenal Volcano in Costa Rica.

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