The Lodge at Chaa Creek is reviving an ancient Maya art and form of communication in order to leave a lasting legacy of Belize’s 2012 Maya Winter Solstice celebrations, and they’re doing it exactly as the ancient Maya themselves would have.
What we know about the ancient Maya comes primarily from early stone monuments known as stelae; large tombstone-like slabs of mostly limestone on which important dates and events were recorded using Maya glyphs; the written or carved characters considered to be one of humankind’s earliest forms of writing.
Although the Spanish conquistadors of the 16th century destroyed the vast Maya libraries and almost all of their codices – long scrolls on one of the world’s earliest examples of papermaking, the stelae have survived, as has the Maya language, which is still spoken by many Chaa Creek staff members.
Chaa Creek owners Mick and Lucy Fleming commissioned local Maya artist Arcenio Itza to carve a stela commemorating the 2012 Maya Winter Solstice – an event identified thousands of years ago by the Maya as having supreme importance to the human race, and more recently misinterpreted on the Internet and in Hollywood films as signifying the end of the world.
Mr Itza spent over 100 hours meticulously carving the stela near the ancient Maya temple of Xunantunich, located near Chaa Creek and across the Mopan River from his home at Succotz, a traditional Maya village. He is also carving slate Maya Calendar rounds as keepsakes for participants in Chaa Creek’s 2012 Maya Winter Solstice celebrations.
“We will be celebrating the December 21st Maya Winter Solstice as respectfully, authentically and exuberantly as the ancient Maya would have, and we’re certain they would have had their artists preparing stelae to mark the occasion, just as we are today,” Ms Fleming said.
“We also wanted to point out a significant aspect of the December 21 Maya celebrations in Belize. As one millennia-long cycle in the Maya Long Count is completed, another begins, and just as the Maya did, we’re leaving a record of the event carved in stone for future generations. I don’t think out local Maya artists would be working so hard at if they believed the end is near,” she laughed.
The Chaa Creek stela has been sourced from limestone, prepared and carved exactly as the hundreds of ancient examples found at Maya archaeological sites throughout Belize, Guatemala, Mexico, Honduras and El Salvador were. Ms Fleming said that a Maya person back in ancient times, today or far into the future would instantly recognise the stela and have no problem reading it.
“We think it’s pretty cool that that we’re able to continue a legacy that’s thousands and thousands of years old, and it’s a real example of just how vibrant this ancient culture is. Just as our Maya Organic Farm and Maya Medicinal Plant Trail at Chaa Creek are a continuation of ancient Maya techniques and methods, this stela is part of an unbroken lineage originating from before the time of Christ and still very much alive today,” she said.
Ms Fleming added that Chaa Creek is hosting one of Belize’s biggest 2012 Maya Winter Solstice events throughout the week of December 21 2012, during which time guests can join the local Maya community in celebrating this historical epoch. A Maya cultural village will educate guests in Maya handicrafts, art, food, carving, weaving and day-to-day skills such as home construction and roof thatching to prepare them to participate in a December 21st candlelit procession to the ancient Maya temple of Tunichilen, located within Chaa Creek’s 365 acre private rainforest nature reserve.
“We developed our Chaa Creek all-inclusive Maya 2012 Winter Solstice vacation packages to give guests a good grounding in the culture and belief systems of the ancient Maya as a way to really appreciate and get the most out of this once in a lifetime experience,” Ms Fleming said.
“And the beauty is that, thousands of years in the future, people will be able to read about it on the stela, just as we do with important Maya events from thousands of years ago. It’s pretty amazing when you think about it,” she added.