Cerro Maya

Northern Belize

The ruins at Cerro Maya make up the only Maya site in Belize that occupies beachfront property. It is composed of a series of temples built from about 50 BC. While the site is mostly a mass of grass-covered mounds, the center has been cleared and two structures are visible. Be warned: Cerro Maya can get very very buggy, especially during the rainy season; cover up and don't skimp on the bug spray!

In late Preclassic times, its proximity to the mouth of the New River gave Cerro Maya a key position on the trade route between the Yucatán coast and the Petén region. The temples are larger and more ornate than any others found in the area, and archaeologists believe Cerro Maya may have been taken over by an outside power at this time, quite possibly Lamanai. Cerros flourished until about AD 150, after which it reverted rapidly to small, unimportant village status.

Climbing Structure 4 (a funerary temple more than 65ft high) offers stunning panoramic views of the ocean and Corozal Town just across the bay. Northwest of this, Structure 5 stands with its back to the sea. This was the first temple to be built and may have been the most important. Large stucco masks flanking its central staircase have been covered with modern replicas for protection but the new material looks out of place and the models are not as well executed as those at Lamanai.

Southwest of Structure 5, a third structure remains unexcavated, protected by an army of mosquitoes. Apparently Structure 6 exhibits a 'triadic' arrangement (one main temple flanked by two lesser ones, all atop the same mound), which is also found in Preclassic buildings at Lamanai and El Mirador in the Petén.

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