Aerial of the Cerros area
Cerros is a Maya archaeological site in northern Belize that reached its apogee during the Mesoamerican Late Preclassic. At its nader, it held a population of approximately 1,089 people. The site is strategically located on a peninsula at the mouth of the New River where it empties into Chetumal Bay on the Caribbean coast. As such, the site had access to and served as an intermediary link between the coastal trade route that circumnavigated the Yucatán Peninsula and inland communities. The inhabitants of Cerros constructed an extensive canal system and utilized raised-field agriculture.
From the time of its inception in the Late Preclassic Era, around 400BC, the site of Cerros was a small village of farmers, fishermen and traders. They made use of its fertile soils and easy access to the sea, while producing and trading product amongst the other Maya in the area. Around 50 BC, as their economy grew and they began to experiment with the idea of kingship, the inhabitants of Cerros initiated a great urban renewal program, burying their homes to make way for a group of temples and plazas.
The first of the new constructions was the Structure 5C-2nd, which has become the most famous piece of architecture at the site. It marked the northernmost point of the sacred north-south axis of the site, which was complemented by a ballcourt (Str. 50) which lies at the southernmost point. As kings died, others came along and new temples were constructed in their honor. The last of the substantial constructions at the site (Str. 3A-1st) occurred around AD 100, and many of the other structures appear to have been abandoned before then. From then on, any new construction was likely limited to the outer residential area, as the population began to decline severely.
Apart from a small occupation at the end of the Late Classic period, Cerros has been abandoned since AD 400. This once glorious site was left for ruin and remained virtually unnoticed until Thomas Gann made reference to "lookout" mounds along the coast in 1900, drawing interest to the site.
Much of the site remains unexcavated. You can travel to Cerros over a gravel road from Corozal Town. There is an archaeological information officer on site.
Photograph by Eladio Alamilla
artisticized by Marty Casado
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Other Belizean "Pictures of the Day":
San Pedro Daily, Tony Rath's "Images of Belize"