As It Happens

Scientists discover an ancient Maya water temple in Belize

To the average viewer, it is a quiet, calm pool under the shade of a beautiful forest in Belize. But to a team of scientists and explorers that have been combing its depths for the past four years, it is a temple. A Mayan water temple.  Archaeologist Lisa Lucero, who leads the team, believes that Mayans came from all over...
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To the average viewer, it is a quiet, calm pool under the shade of a beautiful forest in Belize. But to a team of scientists and explorers that have been combing its depths for the past four years, it is a temple. A Mayan water temple.  Archaeologist Lisa Lucero, who leads the team, believes that Mayans came from all over their vast territory to make offerings to their gods.

Archeologists say the pool shows how the Maya turned into a "drought culture", in a desperate effort to stop the collapse of their world. As drought intensified, so did pilgrimages to this sacred site.

Lucero, an archeologist at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, tells As It Happens host Carol Off that her team found the ruins of a water temple so close to the edge, that parts of the ruins are practically in the pool.

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A view from the shore of the pool at Cara Blanca, Belize [PHOTO: Tony Rath / courtesy Lisa Lucero]

She says that the ceramics found at the site date between 800 and 900 CE, a period known for multi-year droughts and for being the height of what is known as the Mayan collapse.

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Scientists collecting wood samples in the pool at Cara Blanca, Belize [PHOTO: Tony Rath / courtesy Lisa Lucero]

Lucero adds "People are coming from all over... the ceramic styles, they vary in shape and form and they are coming from the north, south, east and west...so we think that pilgrims are coming to this place that clearly had a reputation for being a particularly sacred kind of portal to the underworld and a place to communicate with the gods. I don't want to say in desperation, but I guess I just did."

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Cichlids swim by an old felled tree in the pool at Cara Blanca, Belize [PHOTO: Tony Rath / courtesy Lisa Lucero]


Lucero will publish her findings in the upcoming edition of the Cambridge Archaeological Journal.

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