Sunday, May 30, 2010

Belize Archaeology Adventure 2010 Pt. 3 Caracol)

Caracol is an anciet Maya city located in the Cayo district of Belize and is about 2 hours away from the town of San Ignacio. Archaeological evidence suggests that Caracol was first inhabited as early as 1200 BC, making it one of the earliest power centers in mesoamerica. For centuries at a time Caracol fought and forged alliances with other mighty cities such as Calackmul (in present day Mexico) and Tikal (in nearby Guatemala). Caracol's influence was also strongly felt in cities it dominated such as El Naranjo, El Pilar, Xinantunich etc. Caracol's greatest expansion came in the fifth century during what is known as the Mayan classic period; it is during this time that many of the sites most iconic structures were constructed.

Caracol is not really a site you can get to on your own. Even agencies which plan trips to the site from San Ignacio go in convoys since if you were to get stuck there is a good chance that there would be nobody on that road to help you for at least a few days. The terrain is treacherous and during the rainy season access is often made impossible by flooding... however do not let any of this dissuade you from going, its well worth the difficulty!

View from atop Caana pyramid (the largest in Belize)

Ancient toomb

One of the many vaulted structures at the site

Nicely preserved hieroglyphs on stelae.

Beautiful stone and stucco mask!

A ballgame marker covered in glyphs

One of the two excavated ball courts at Caracol.

Interesting ramp which leads up to large ceremonial center (perhaps built to aid construction or to make it easier for elderly priests to gain access to the temple).

Stunning acropolis.

Very typical architecture at Caracol.

Wonderful little pyramid across from Caana.

Beautiful hieroglyphs on said pyramid.

Wow wow wow, just wow!

The ground level platform of Caana (Sky Palace) to this day one of the largest man made structures in Belize!

More to come!

Belize Archaeology Adventure 2010 Pt. 2 (Cahal Pech)

After my visit to Xunantunich I made my way to the nearby archaeological site of Cahal Pech. Unfortunately the weather took a turn for the worse and by the time I got to the site it was raining cats and dogs! (not literally of course). My main concern was for my cameras, and although I had my little water resist point and shoot, I knew I would want to bring out an SLR. I eventualy decided to brave the weather, put a big garbage back over my camera back which is already weatherproof and just shoot with the little point and shoot. Eventually the rain calmed down to the point were I could bring out the big canon, but the light was still quite terrible... oh well, at least I got to visit and photograph the site.

Cahal Pech is built on a hill on the outskirts of the town of San Ignacio. You can walk from the bus station of the town to the site in about 15 to 20 minutes, but keep in mind that the entire walk is uphill... so if you are feeling lazy you could always get a cab up to the site for about a buck or two. The site features arround 30 structures, the largest measuring 25 meters in height. There are several small pyramids and platforms as well as a ball court. The main palace complex is the most impressive structure on the site, it features a beautiful courtyard, some very interesting staircases and odd looking archways as well as fairly wide corridors.
Hope you enjoy the photos (and sorry for the poor lighting, I did what I could considering the weather!). Check back soon for photos of Belize's archaeological crown jewel, the famed city (and great rival of Tikal and Calakmul) of Caracol!

Belize Archaeology Adventure 2010 Pt. 1 (Xunantunich)

This week I decided to take a few days and travel from Merida to the Belizean interior to visit some archaeological sites which have alluded me so far. Belize is a great little country with several interesting ruins to visit; it is also teaming with wildlife due in great part to its low population density of about 250,000 in a territory about the size of Belgium. Belize is however not without its challenges... transportation can be difficult and unreliable, it is important to always have a plan B!

Anyway for this first post I will share some photographs I took of the ancient city of Xunantunich. This third century site is found on the Mopan river about 150 km west of Belize city and near the towns of Benque Viejo and San Ignacio. Xunantunich means "Stone Woman" in the Yucatec Maya dialect, however the original name of the site is not known. The site is dominated by "El Castillo" which is decorated with beautiful stucco masks and other adornments. The structure stands as Belize's second largest pyramid after "Caan" in Caracol. The site also features many other smaller pyramids, courtyards, ceremonial platforms and a ball court.

River crossing on the Mopan.

Storm clouds looming over Xunantunich

One of the several beautiful stucco masks

Stairway up "El Castillo".

View through the ruins of a structure in the southern plaza.

View of the main acropolis.

El Castillo

Xunantunich ball court.

One of Xunantunich's current inhabitants, how beautiful, what a treat!

One of the many unrestored structures at the site.

Hope you enjoyed the post, come back soon for more on Belizean archeaology!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Mayan Ruins at X'oot (and some neat orchids)

Last week I made my way to Santa Elena with my dad and sister to go visit the archaeological site of X'oot (I have found tons of different ways of spelling this site). X'oot is about 10km from the town of Santa Elena in what is known as the Puuc valley. There has been virtually no restoration work done although there are now some cleared paths which allow visitors to visit the site without the need of a machete (always appreciated!). There are several significant visible structures along with 2 large pyramids. One interesting thing about the site is that from the top of the larger pyramid you can see Uxmal (about 10km away). Unfortunately the day I was there it was quite hazy... so hopefully next time I will get some better photos of uxmal from X'oot.

Abel, Our guide through the milpa (if you need a guide to access remote sites in the area this is your man, send me a message if you would like his contact info).

Uxmal as seen from X'oot

Atop a pyramid

Pyramid at X'oot

The site is surrounded by corn fiels

The landscape is quite rigid and there are many forks in the road, unless you know exactly were you are going you need a guide.

And for dessert... some orchids from my moms garden!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Final installmet of southern Ontario's wildlife (I promise)

Well after a couple wonderful months in southern Ontario I am back in Merida for a little until I head over to Europe! Despite the crippling May heat, it is great to be home enjoying all the wonderful food, sights and sounds... as well as being back for mothers day and my moms birthday. Here are a few more photos I took in Ontario to wrap up my little series of posts on the area!

That is all for now!