Mayan Ruins in Belize

Xunantunich in BelizeAn important part of Belize’ history are the Mayan ruins, a legacy of outstanding palaces and temples. The Mayan civilization began as early as 1500 B.C. and started to decline in 900 A.D., although some Maya cultural centers continued to be occupied until the arrival of the Spanish in the 15th century. Belize's population was thought to be over 1 million people during the classic period (250 A.D. to 900 A.D.) when Belize became the heart of the Mayan civilization. To this day, there is still a significant Mayan population living in small villages throughout the country.

Mayan ruins  in BelizeThe oldest Mayan Ruin appears to be Cuello in Orange Walk. Then came the pre-classic era in which the cities of Lamanai, home to the largest pre-classic structure in the Mayan world, and Cerros prospered. In the classic period, the crowning period for the Mayan Civilization, the enormous sites of Caracol and El Pilar rose out of the forest and ceremonial centres like Xunantunich built lovely temples and pyramids.

The ancient Mayan world centered on the Yucatan Peninsula, spilling over to the lowland rainforests of Mexico to the east and Belize in the west, finally climbing up to the highlands of Guatemala through to the Pacific coast of Guatemala. The eastern edges of Honduras and El Salvador were also part of the Mayan world. Today, most Mayan people now live in three areas: the Guatemalan highlands, the Yucatan Peninsula and the Chiapas state in Mexico. Today's Maya number between four and six million divided into many different ethnic groups who speak around 30 different languages.

Today, most of the sites are under excavation and preservation, but some sites like Cerros lack the funding needed to preserve it. It is important to preserve these sites as lasting monuments of the great Mayan civilization.