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Caracol Archaeological Site
Location: 40 km South of Xunantunich, Cayo District
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 (184.108.40.206.8). 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 (220.127.116.11.5), 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 (18.104.22.168.3). 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
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.