New Maya Discovery in Belize Brings Tourism and Archaeology Together

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An ancient Maya jade pendant is part of an exciting new Maya archaeological find in Belize, and the discovery highlights the successful coexistence between tourism and archaeology in the little Central American country, according to the Lodge at Chaa Creek’s Belize Natural History Centre.

Maya archaeology

The Lodge at Chaa Creek is located in the Maya heartland of Belize, which features many ancient Maya archaeological sites

It goes to show that there’s a lot more to ecotourism, and Belize, than many people realize. As we like to say, Belize is more than just a pretty face

An exciting new Maya archaeological find in Belize highlights the successful coexistence between tourism and archaeology in the little Central American country, according to the Lodge at Chaa Creek’s Belize Natural History Centre.

Brion Young, a Mayanist and the Natural History Centre’s assistant manager, said that the discovery of a priceless jade pendant at Nim Li Punit, in Belize’s Toledo District, the second largest Maya jade artefact ever found in Belize and perhaps anywhere, is creating a buzz in both scientific and travel circles.

“Everyone here is excited about the news, and since the discovery we’ve been fielding enquiries from research colleagues as well as tourism stakeholders. Word has been quickly travelling around the world and people want to know more. It’s a real boon for both science and Belize’s cultural and Maya tourism sectors,” he said.

Mr Young added the jade pendant was just one of several recent “significant” finds at Nim Li Punit, Mayan for “Big Hat”, one of Belize’s lesser known but nonetheless important ancient Maya archaeological sites.

“In addition to the jade pendant, the researchers found a number of other important items including pots and smaller jade pieces,” he said.

What makes the find even more intriguing to researchers is the fact that the jade pendant and other items found with it were not of local origin, with some pieces coming from Mexico, and during a time when most Maya centres were in decline, Mr Young said.

A team of researchers from University of California San Diego have been working in the area for several years, and according to UCSD professor of archaeology and team leader, Dr Geoffrey Braswell, "Well it is significant in many ways, first of all its date, it's really late, we didn't expect to find a tomb so rich during the time period of the Maya collapse… second, I think we have to say, the most important thing is it is the second largest piece of carved Maya jade in Belize and maybe even in the Maya world...".

Dr John Morris, Director of Archaeology at Belize’s National Institute of Culture and History (NICH) hailed the find as the most stunning discovery in Belize this century, rivalling the famous jade head that appears on Belizean banknotes, calling it, “the most magnificent find I would say within the last 30 years in Belize. The only other find that is equivalent to this is the jade head itself. It's a really remarkable find,” Dr Morris said.

The pendant, described as the size of a human heart, was thought to be worn on the chest of Maya royalty during blood-letting ceremonies and bears inscriptions dating to 671 AD, according to Dr Braswell.

Mr Young said that discoveries such as this recent find, and the anticipation that there are many more still to be discovered in Belize’s vast tracts of pristine rainforest and undeveloped land, continues to draw tourists to Belize.

“It’s exciting that there are still so many things to be discovered here in Belize. It something we call living archaeology and offers real life Indiana Jones experiences. In fact, that’s the expression many of our guests use when they return from tours to the places like the Actun Tunichil Muknal ceremonial cave. I’ve heard, ‘Wow! That was just like being Indiana Jones’, more times than I can remember.
“It great to be able to offer something like that,” Mr Young said.

The Belize Natural History Centre is an on-site research facility, museum and attraction at the Lodge at Chaa Creek. Mr Young said that since it opened in 1993 the NHC has been visited by thousands of students and guests.

“It goes to show that there’s a lot more to ecotourism, and Belize, than many people realize. As we like to say, Belize is more than just a pretty face,” Mr Young said.

The Lodge at Chaa Creek is a multi award winning eco resort set within a 365-acre private nature reserve along the banks of the Macal River in Belize.

ENDS

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Mark Langan

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