Caracol or El Caracol is the name given to a large ancient Maya archaeological site, located in what is now the Cayo District of Belize. It is situated approximately 25 miles south of Xunantunich and San Ignacio Cayo, at an elevation of 1500 feet (460 m) above sea-level, in the foothills of the Maya Mountains. The site was first reported by a native logger named Rosa Mai, who came across its remains in 1937 while searching for mahogany hardwood trees to exploit. Mai later reported the site to the archaeological commission for British Honduras, as the British colony, later to become independent Belize, was known at the time. In 1938 the archaeological commissioner, A.H. Anderson, visited the site along with a colleague H.B. Jex, spending two weeks in preliminary surveys and noting a number of carved monuments, stelae and Maya inscriptions. It was Anderson who gave the site its name — from the Spanish: caracol "snail, shell", but more generally meaning spiral- or volute-shaped— apparently on account of the winding access road that led to the site. The ancient Maya name may have been Oxhuitza.
The site was occupied as early as 1200 BCE, but had its greatest period of construction in the Maya Classic period, with over 40 monuments dated between 485CE to 889CE which record the dynastic sequence of the rulers.
Ancient Caracol was one of the largest ancient Maya cities, covering some 65 square miles (168 km²) with an estimated peak population of about 120,000, or possibly as many as 180,000 people. One monument here records a military victory over the army of Tikal in 562CE, where Caracol's Lord Water is shown to have captured and sacrificed Tikal's Double Bird. This event is seemingly concurrent with archaeological and epigraphic evidence indicating the beginning of the Tikal Mid-Classic Hiatus, when a seeming decline in Tikal's population, a cessation of monument building, and the destruction of certain monuments in the Great Plaza occurred as Caracol's population and urban development seemingly skyrocketed.
*1 Known rulers
*2 Excavations, investigations, and modern development
*3 Other area sites
*4 See also
*7 External links
(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
Excavations, investigations, and modern development
The site was first noted and documented in archaeological terms in 1937. More extensive explorations and documentation of the site was undertaken by Linton Satterthwaite of 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. The site is maintained by residential wardens from the Belize Institute of Archaeology, a sub-division of the National Institute of Culture and History, a government-run agency.
The site currently accommodates an average of 15-20 tourists per day, with greater numbers during the peak season around Easter. A museum to hold the large monuments found at the site is currently being constructed. A visitor center is already at the site, and recent developments include new directional and informational signs and a house for the residential staff.
The only road Caracol may be accessed by is paved for the last ten miles and leads to the Western Highway between San Ignacio and Belmopan and to Santa Elena.
Caana ("sky-palace") is the largest building at Caracol. It remains one of the largest man-made structures in Belize.
All of the following information about the Districts of Belize was obtained from Wikipedia.