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Caracol Archaeological Site

Caracol

 

 

 

Location: 40 km South of Xunantunich, Cayo District  Map

Open: 8am - 5pm

 

 

 

Description of Caracol Archaeological Site

Caracol or El Caracol (Spanish for snail) Archaeological Site is located 25 miles from a Xunantunich in the Cayo District in Belize. Sitting high above sea level on the Vaca Plateau at 503 meters (1500 ft) this beautiful city was one of the largest Mayan cities and the largest in Belize. Caracol Archaeological Site was known to the Mayans as Oxhuitza, the site was occupied as early as 1200 BC and had its greatest period during Maya Classic period between 485 AD and 889 AD then over 40 monuments were constructed. It covered 65 square miles (168 km2) and had a population of 120,000 to 180,000. Amazingly it has no natural water sources to feed the city. Instead its citizens build large reservoirs to store rain water and use it for drinking and irrigation of crops. Competition with other Mayan city- states held back the development of the city, but in 562 AD Caracol’s armies under the leadership of Yajaw Te' K'inich II (Lord Water) defeated Tikal’s army, a powerful neighbouring city in modern Guatemala. Tikal’s chief Double Bird was captured and sacrificed to the gods. From this point of Caracol experienced rapid growth in area and population, while Tikal’s power on the other hand decreased and dwindled. This 120-year-long hiatus at Tikal occurred as Caracol's population and monumental construction increased, becoming more prosperous and cohesive. Tikal took on cultural characteristics of Caracol during this time as, even with the renewed erection of monuments at Tikal, their style mimicked that of Caracol.

 

Yajaw Te’ K’inich II passed on his throne to the eldest of his two sons, Knot Ajaw, in AD 599; his younger brother K’an II succeeded him in AD 618. K'an II performed a ritual of alliance in Calakmul's territory the following January (9.9.5.13.8). K’an II is described as the most successful Caracol ruler. Reigning for 40 years from AD 618 to 658, he expanded the causeway system and saw an increase in the site's population.

In AD 627 (9.9.14.3.5), Lord Kan II attacked Caracol's sometime ally Naranjo in a hubi (destruction) war. He attacked again in 628, and sacrificed its king. He then led a star-war against Naranjo in AD 631 (9.9.18.16.3). He did it a fourth time in 636. In AD 637, he celebrated his first reigning k’atun by dedicating the Hieroglyphic Stairway at Naranjo itself.
 
Caracol was rediscovered in 1938. However the first archaeological expedition was sent in the early fifties. Digs still go on and many structures of the city are still hidden in the jungle.

 

Drive toward the city of Caracol is quiet long and confusing. Taking a map and directions if you chose to travel there in a rented car is preferable. The best place to start would me people in your hotel. They probably would to like you to come back in one piece thus their directions would most detailed. The road to the city is moderate, but taking a 4 wheel drive vehicle is preferable.

 

 


Known rulers of Caracol
(Note that this list is not continuous, as the archaeological record is incomplete)
331–349: Te' Kab' Chaak
circa 470: K'ak' Ujol K'inich I
484–514: Yajaw Te' K'inich I
531–534: K'an I
553–593: Yajaw Te' K'inich II (Lord Water)
599–613: "Knot Lord"
618–658: K'an II
658–680: K'ak' Ujol K'inich II
circa 700: name unknown
mid 8th century: name unknown
793: Tum Yohl K'inich
798: K'inich Joy K'awiil
810–830: K'inich Toob'il Yoaat
835–849: K'an III
859: name unknown

Modern history of Caracol
The Caracol archaeological site was discovered in 1938. More extensive explorations and documentation of the site was undertaken by the University of Pennsylvania in 1951 and 1953. A project of archaeological excavations and restorations of the ancient structures at Caracol started in 1985 and is ongoing. The project is currently directed by Drs. Arlen and Diane Chase of the University of Central Florida in Orlando.


Where to sleep

Table Rock Camp & Cabanas. Excellent eco-lodge on the road to Caracol. Located on the Macal River.

 

 

 

  

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