Cahal Pech Shore Excursions

 

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Large palace-type structure facing the main public plaza of Cahal Pech

 

Cahal Pech Mayan Ruins is located on the southern outskirts of San Ignacio Town in the upper Belize Valley region of the Cayo District, Belize . The site center sits on the crest of a steep hill on the west bank of the Macal River. The central acropolis, approximately 900 feet above sea level, provides a commanding view of the Maya Mountains to the south and the fertile valleys of the Belize River to the northeast.

 

Although the actual date that Cahal Pech Mayan Ruins were discovered is unknown, the first published record of the site dates to the late 1930s. It wasn't until the 1950s, however, that the first archaeological investigations of the site began. At this time Linton Satterthwaite from the University Museum of the University of Pennsylvania conducted preliminary mapping and excavation. Except for two brief paragraphs in a 1951 publication, Satterthwaite never produced a detailed report of this work but a copy of his notes were subsequently retrieved from the University Museum and are presently stored in the library of the Belize Department of Archaeology. In his brief summary of this research Satterthwaite concluded:

 

Cahal Pech is a site with an unpropitious Maya name meaning "Place of the Ticks." This ceremonial center includes pyramid temples, palaces, and a ball court. Five stelae and an altar (plain) show presence of the stela cult. Some major buildings were roofed with the Maya vault, some apparently not. There was a gradual architectural growth, the occupation probably running through the entire Classic Period, and we have ceramic hints of a longer occupation. Though previously unknown to Archaeologists, it is only about a mile from the suspension bridge at El Cayo. Finally, it is on the lands of Mr. Henry Melhado of Belize, an extremely kind gentleman who permits us to dig it.



Late Classic elite residence

Between 1953 and 1955, Gordon Willey of Harvard University visited Cahal Pech during his settlement survey of the middle Belize River Valley region. He subsequently wrote a brief description of Cahal Pech and incorporated the center in his discussion of settlement hierarchy in the Belize River Valley.

During the 1960s, A.H. Anderson, Belize's first archaeological commissioner, made several visits to Cahal Pech. Because of its easy access and location, Anderson recommended to the government that the site be left unaffected by private lands, and that the center and its immediate periphery be developed as a National Park. Due to financial constraints Anderson's recommendations were, unfortunately, never implemented.

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