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Maya City of Cerros in Belize Rises

The ruins of the ancient city of Cerros lies on the outskirts of the Maya heartland on the coast of Belize. This once great center was built on a peninsula that juts out into the Chetumal Bay. The lush rainforests on the western part of what is now modern Belize and Guatemala, as well as the rich Caribbean Sea allowed the Maya people to flourish in this coastal area during the Late Preclassic Period (400 BC-100 AD). The rise of the Maya City of Cerros in Belize occurred in 50 BC according to the Bible Timeline Chart with World History.

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The people of Cerros were part of the Eastern Lowland Mayas, who mostly lived in Belize and some parts of Guatemala. Ancient Cerros started out as a small village in the Preclassic Period and evolved into a large coastal urban center during the Late Preclassic Period. El Mirador in Peten, Guatemala rose at the same time as Cerros, but it was considered larger than its counterpart in the coast of Belize.

“Belize Cerros Structure 5.”

The position of Cerros between the coast and jungles of Belize made it one of the most important Maya sites. The rich land allowed agriculture to flourish while its nearness to the coast made it ideal for trading and fishing. The Mayas of Cerros built a canal that encircled their fields, ball courts, houses, and shrines to ensure the proper irrigation of the whole city. Temples and palaces were built on the northern tip of the peninsula with houses for the common people beyond these structures. Priests also served as rulers of this city as seen on the iconography of stucco masks of the sun god at a temple’s summit.

Several temples were built by Cerros kings when the city was at its height. One of the most important (and spectacular) was Structure 5C. This temple featured masks of the mythical Hero Twins in the Popol Vuh, which were identified by Maya epigrapher Linda Schele and anthropology professor David Freidel.

The Mayas abandoned Cerros during the last years of the Late Preclassic Period. The reasons for this exodus from Cerros is still unknown. It became a small village later on until it was vacated by the Maya people forever.

Picture By ElelichtOwn work, CC BY-SA 3.0,
McKillop, Heather Irene. The Ancient Maya: New Perspectives. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2004
Freidel, David A., and Linda Schele. “Kingship in the Late Preclassic Maya Lowlands: The Instruments and Places of Ritual Power.” American Anthropologist 90, no. 3 (1988): 547-67. doi:10.1525/aa.1988.90.3.02a00020
Sharer, Robert J., and Loa P. Traxler. The Ancient Maya. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1994
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