As mentioned in a previous post, Caracol and Lamanai are the two most important political centers in Maya Belize. Unfortunately, Caracol was closed during our trip because there was a shooting there killing a police officer only a couple of weeks before our arrival. With Caracol closed, we decided to go to Lamanai even though it is much farther away and the weather was very rainy.
Barton Creek Cave is a remote cave formerly used by the ancient Mayans as a burial and ceremonial site. It is a river cave about 7 km long with a single entrance. We paddle into the cave in a canoe, and on the day of our visit, we were the only ones in the cave. There are bones and ceremonial artifacts among the beautiful stalacites and stalagmites. Our guide decided to turn off the torch when we were deep inside the cave, the quiet lapping of the water against the canoe in complete darkness was a bit eery – gave us insight into how this place, their underworld, felt to the ancient Mayans.
From Yaxha in Guatemala, we continued to the border of Belize by car. The Maya civilization spread across what is now Belize in around 1500 BC, and flourished here until about 900 AD. The main political center in the middle and south of Maya Belize was Caracol, whereas in the north, the most important political center was Lamanai.