First Temple at Cerros
The ancient Maya city of Cerros in Belize is located in the northern-most district of Belize, Corozal, on the NorthEastern end of Corozal Bay in the community of Copper Bank. It sits reaching out to the Chetumal Bay just across from Chetumal, a province of Mexico which sits on the Yucatan Peninsula.
This village of Cerros was a late pre classic (200Bc-200AD) Maya village of fishing folk, farmers and traders. Certainly, they were smack in the pathway of the great coastal trade which only grew in the classic period. Eventually that little village was buried by the public centre.
According to Linda Schele, the people of Cerros “did decide consciously to embrace kingship as an institution and the consequence of that decision was profound for all”. In the space of two generations, this small village transformed itself into a mighty acropolis. Everyone was a part of the transformation. From the farmer to the engineers and architects who organised the building in the city, to the healers and priests who made certain there was zen at the transition. But even more impressive, Linda Schele add, “It is difficult for us to imagine such a complete and rapid metamorphosis, but what happened at Cerros constituted nothing less than a paradigm shift.
David Friedel added: “Around 50BC, the community of Cerros began the evolutionary program of “urban renewal” which buried their village completely under broad plastered plazas and massive temples…finished with one way of life, they walked outward and began building new homes in a halo some 160 acres in breadth around the new centre.”
As you may be able to imagine, these people were doing something new and it was extravagant, bold and revolutionary. It was an incredible moment not only for the founders and the creators of the city, – which was evolving from a quaint fishing village – but most importantly for what it did to the entire peninsula and down into the coastal planes and mountain jungles of central and western Belize.
Cerros had a king. It certainly was news all over the Maya area and symbolically they created the First Temple or as archaeologists will soon call it, Structure 5C-2nd.
Photograph by Lower Dover
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