Archaeological Sites Near Corozal
Commonly referred to as “Cerros,” the Cerro Maya (“Maya Hill”) archaeological site lords over both sea and jungle on a peninsula across from Corozal called Lawry’s Bite. Cerros was an important coastal trading center during the Late Pre-Classic Period (350 B.C.–A.D. 250) and was occupied as late as 1300 A.D.
Cerro Maya in 2012
The Maya calendar places great significance on the year 2012 and countries throughout the Mundo Maya are planning a yearlong uplifting of Maya culture with events and ceremonies at various Maya archaeological sites.
To learn about what is planned for 2012 at Cerro Maya, please visit the Cerro Maya in 2012 page from our Maya 2012 travel guide.
Magnificent frescoes and stone heads were uncovered by archaeologist David Friedel, signifying that elite rule was firmly fixed by the end of the Pre-Classic Period. The tallest of Cerros’s temples rises to 70 feet, and because of the rise in the sea level the one-time stone residences of the elite Maya are partially flooded.
It would appear that Cerros not only provisioned oceangoing canoes, but also was in an ideal location to control ancient trade routes that traced the Río Hondo and New River from Yucatán, Mexico, to Petén, Guatemala, and the Usumacinta basin. A plaster-lined canal for the sturdy, oversized ocean canoes was constructed around Cerros. Archaeologists have determined that extensive fishing and farming on raised fields took place, probably to outfit the traders. But always the question remains: Why did progress suddenly stop?
Be prepared for vicious mosquitoes at Cerros, especially if there’s no breeze. You can reach the site by boat in minutes—hire one at Tony’s Inn in Corozal or check with a travel agent. If you travel during the dry season (Jan.–Apr.), you can get to Cerros by car; it takes up to 45 minutes, and you’ll have to employ the hand-cranked Pueblo Nuevo Ferry. Admission to the ruins is US$5 per person.
Guests at Cerros Beach Resort (tel. 501/623-9763 or 501/623-9530, www.cerrosbeachresort.com, US$40–60) can bike to the ruins; keep an eye out for jaguarundis, gray foxes, and coatimundis along the way. Cerros Beach Resort is a quiet, off-the-grid location with four screened-in thatch cabanas with private bathrooms and hot water.
This site, one mile northeast of Corozal, was still a populated community of Maya when the Spanish arrived. The largest Santa Rita structure was explored at the turn of the 20th century by Thomas Gann. Sculptured friezes and stucco murals were found along with a burial site that indicates flourishing occupation in the Early Classic Period (about A.D. 300), as well as during the Late Post-Classic Period (A.D. 1350–1530). Two significant burials were found from distant periods in the history of Santa Rita: one from A.D. 300 was a female and the other was a king from a period 200 years later.
In 1985, archaeologists Diane and Arlen Chase discovered a tomb with a skeleton covered in jade and mica ornaments. It has been excavated and somewhat reconstructed under the Chases’ jurisdiction; only one structure is accessible to the public. Post-Classic murals, mostly destroyed over the years, combined Maya and Mexican styles that depict the ecumenical flavor of the period. Some believe that Santa Rita was part of a series of coastal lookouts. Santa Rita is probably more appealing to archaeology buffs than to the average tourist.
© Joshua Berman and Avalon Travel from Moon Belize, 9th Edition