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Caracol - kah-rah-KOHL (South Central Belize)

Spanish for “snail”

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Caracol is the largest site in Belize – the amount of structures and estimated population – and one of the largest ancient Maya cities of all. The site is located on the Vaca plateau at 500 meters a.s.l. adjacent to the Maya mountains, in south-central Belize. The Maya residing at Caracol reached their cultural peak around AD 700 during the Classic period. At this time it is estimated that as many as 150,000 people lived in the area. The main site center is estimated to have around 677 structures with 128 plaza groups. The surrounding area with the main site center may contain as many as 36,000 structures. This construction includes some of the most unique features of the site, 7 sacbeob or causeways that radiate out from the site center, 2 which terminate at the elite residential area, 2 others end at plaza complexes, and the longest one extends to the subordinate site of Calha Pichik. The 7 sacbeob (walkways) together make up over 22 miles.

There are over 40 stone monuments enabling reconstruction of much of Caracol's dynastic sequence. Most important is Alter 21 from Group A's ballcourt playing alley. The center of Alter 21 contains the diagnostic feature of Caracol's alters, an oversized glyph of the day sign of Ahau (god) surrounded by 160 other glyphs. The event depicted on Alter 21 is probably the most important event to take place in the history of the city. It recounts Caracol's capture, defeat, and the sacrifice of Tikal's 21st ruler, Double Bird, in AD 562. After Caracol's defeat of Tikal the site archaeologically has shown a dramatic increase in population and construction.

Caracol site map
Caracol Alter 23 in detail AD 800   Caracol Caana structure consolidation of lower stairs1
Caracol Altar 23   Caracol sign


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