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Quick Facts on Caracol

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Caracol Caracol Archaeological Reserve Oxwitzá
Caracol, Cayo
Caracol  locality
Cayo  state
Belize  country
Central America  continent
Main date(s)
16.763177° N, 89.117768° W
Opening hours
Daily 8am–4pm

Historical Timeline of Caracol

First Mayan ritual structures built at Caracol, including the Temple of the Wooden Lintel and locus B34 burial.
Another elaborate burial is added to locus B34 at Caracol.
Founding of the Caracol royal dynasty.
Caracol defeats Tikal and assumes leadership of the region. It will flourish through the 8th century.
Caracol defeats the rival city of Naranjo.
This is the last date to be recorded on a stele at Caracol.
Archaeologists began preliminary studies at Caracol.
Opening of the site museum at Caracol.

Description of Caracol

The largest Mayan site in Belize, Caracol once occupied a large area (88 sq km) and supported a population of about 140,000 people. Its Mayan name was Oxwitzá, ("three hill water"). The name Caracol comes from the Spanish for "snail" and refers to the large number of snails found here during early explorations.

The Caracol Archaeological Reserve is located in the Chiquibil Forest Reserve of west-central Belize, 47 miles from the Mayan city of Tikal in Guatemala. The site is not as extensively cleared as others in the region, but this does provide more atmosphere and better wildlife spotting.

So far, archaeologists have uncovered two ball courts and three main plazas surrounded by pyramid temples and other structures. Over 100 tombs have also been found, as well as a rich array of hieroglyphic inscriptions that reveal the history of this lost Mayan city.

The most impressive sight at Caracol is a hillside complex known as Caana (Maya for "Sky Place"). Rising 43.5 meters above the plaza below, Caana contains four palaces and three temples. It is one of the most elaborate complexes found so far in the Southern Maya region. The palace rooms were originally coated with white stucco and decorated with red paint.

The largest tomb discovered so far was hidden deep below Caracol Stucture B19. The tomb chamber was also coated with white stucco and decorated with a thick red line around the center and a large red panel at one end. Inside the red panel is an inscription recording the date 634. The only occupant of the chamber was an adult female, who had been bundled in cloths and accompanied by ceremonial vessels.

Holly Hayes
October 27, 2011

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