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Cerros is a Late Pre Classic (300 B.C.-200 A.D.) site located on the tip of a peninsular where the mouth of the New River and Chetumal Bay meet. This geographical location afforded it a very favorable position to become an important trade center for the exchange of goods and ideas from the interior cities of Lamanai and the Peten, and thence along the Yucatan coast, and vice-versa.
Cerros had a system of raised fields for agriculture, and was separated from the peninsular by a man-made canal. The ceremonial and civic center was located within this separated area. This area contained pyramids, temples, platforms, and two ball courts. Most of the structures date from the Late Pre Classic, and were never built over which is a rarity in the Maya World. The residential area was situated on both sides of the canal. The archaeological park covers 52 acres/21 hectares.
Cerros is located in the north of Belize across the bay from Corozal Town. It is easily reached from Orange Walk, Belize City or Belmopan from the south, or from the north by way of Chetumal, Mexico. Once in Corozal Town the trip to the site can be made by looping around the bay by road, or by hiring a tourist boat to take you across the bay. There is no regularly scheduled boat service. Check with one of the hotels or resorts for an organized tour or private passage.
HOURS: 8 A.M.-5 P.M.
ENTRANCE FEE: U.S. $5/BZD$10
GUIDES: none on site, check in Corozal Town
SERVICES: Visitor center and restrooms
ON-SITE MUSEUM: No
ACCOMMODATIONS: Food and Lodging can be found in Corozal Town.
GPS: 18d 21' 28" N, 88d 21' 63" W
MISC: Use a 4 wheel drive vehicle during the rainy season (May-November)
HISTORY AND EXPLORATION
Cerros has a settlement history that is similar to, and perhaps connected to, that of the great Pre Classic site of El Mirador in the Peten, Guatemala. Its beginning extends back into the Early Pre Classic (1000-800 B.C.). By 50 B.C. the first monumental structure appears, and an early system of kingship is apparent. There is evidence of trade goods such as jade and obsidian coming in from the Guatemalan Highlands and from El Salvador, as well as items from the Peten.
With the collapse of El Mirador and its trade network at the end of the Late Pre Classic, the fortunes of Cerros also declined. The city was virtually abandoned, though some activity persisted into the Early Classic (200-600 A.D). There have been no stelae or other glyphic inscriptions discovered at the site to identify any of its ancient kings. There was a brief reoccupation of the site at the end of the Late Classic (600-900 A.D).
The site was first reported on by Thomas Gann in 1900, though no investigation was attempted. Peter Schmidt and Joseph Palacio made the first investigations in 1969. There followed excavations and restoration by David Freidel in 1974. In the 1990’s further investigations were conducted by Debra Walker.
The majority of structures at Cerros date from the Late Pre Classic. These are centered around three plazas that reflect three distinct construction phases.
The earliest structure at Cerros is Structure 5C-2, also known as the First Temple. This structure is also the most important at the site, and is located literally on the edge of the water. Erosion has affected a portion of the structure. It is a four tiered, truncated step pyramid with a temple on its summit. It has been identified as an “E Group” structure. These early structures had astronomical significance.
Flanking the central stairway of the First Temple are four huge, stucco masks, stacked two above the other. They have been identified as deities from the Maya pantheon representing different aspects of the Sun and Venus. This motif style has also been recognized at other sites such as Lamanai, Kohunlich, Acanceh, and Uaxactun.
The next building phase occurred just south of Temple 1 and formed an acropolis which contains Temple 2, also known as Structure 6. This was possibly constructed under the direction of Ruler 2. The temple was built upon a raised plaza that reached a height of 53 feet/16 meters. A south stairway led up to the plaza. A burial cache was discovered beneath the temple containing relics of Ruler 1.
To the east of Temple 2 is Temple 3, also known as Structure 4, which was built around the same time as the former. Temple 3 is a pyramidal temple set within an acropolis that is the highest structure at Cerros, and reaches a commanding height of 72 feet/22 meters.
The next major construction took place just south of Temple 3. This truncated pyramidal structure, Structure 29, rose on a two tiered step platform and was crowned at its summit with three temples. The central temple faces west and was decorated with carved jaguar heads, and may have been connected with warfare symbolism. The two flanking temples were decorated with long-snouted masks.
The principle ball court is located at the southern end of the civic/ceremonial center along the canal. The playing field is flanked by low structures with platforms at each end, forming a group known as Structure 50. Between the ball court and the temple complexes are numerous minor structures, some residential, some civic, most of which have not been restored..
first temple structure 5C babs umenhofer
structure 5C detail elelicht
structure 5C-2 earlier photo by hjpd
temple 3 structure 4 elelicht
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structure 29 elelicht