Cerros started out as a small village of farmers and fishermen on the coast of the Corozal Bay. Its access to the sea made it a significant trading port in ancient coastal Belize. As a result, its population grew steadily. This Maya city became a major trade, culture, and religious center during the Late Preclassic Period. This was marked by magnificent structures such as the step pyramids, ball courts, and acropolis. Cerros was home to many people at its peak but it all changed many years later when it was completely abandoned by the people who lived there. This happened close to the time of Christ’s Birth according to the Biblical Timeline with World History.
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Many Maya urban centers experienced a decline during the last years of the Late Preclassic Period including Cerros. The population of the city gradually became smaller and important sites were eventually abandoned. Monuments were neglected and the Mayas did not make new ones during this period. The rainforest then slowly took over the farms and structures the people built in the past.
There are different possibilities why Cerros was abandoned completely. One explanation is the climactic changes the region experienced which resulted in droughts. Soil erosion and deforestation also made matters worse. The scarcity of food brought about by these changes may have driven the Mayas (in Cerros and other sites) to look for a more hospitable environment where they can grow food.
As it was one of the major Maya cities during the period, overpopulation and diseases also played a part in its decline. Cerros, in addition, relied heavily on sea trading routes in its early years. As Tikal and other Mesoamerican cities grew, the trade routes were disrupted from the waterways to further inland which reduced the city’s significance. A few families remained around Cerros, but it would never regain its past glory as one of the most important Maya cities.
Picture By HJPD – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=6640093
McKillop, Heather Irene. The Ancient Maya: New Perspectives. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2004
Foster, Lynn V. Handbook to Life in the Ancient Maya World. New York: Facts on File, 2002
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