Belize, a nation steeped in history and cultural diversity, has become a prime destination for archaeologists and history enthusiasts. International Archaeology Day, celebrated with zest in Belize, is a testament to the profound importance of archaeology in unraveling the past. Here are a few ways in which archaeology has opened an avenue for the Maya culture in tourism:
Maya Practices: Preserving Ancient Traditions
Belize, once a thriving center of the ancient Maya civilization, is a repository of the past. Maya practices, such as epigraphy sessions, teach hieroglyphic reading and writing. These workshops engage the local community and connect them to their historical roots, learning the ancient writing system of their ancestors.
The Pok Ta Pok game, a traditional Maya ballgame, is another testament to breathing life into ancient practices by the countries of Mesoamerica. The ritual ballgame was important in Maya societies to settle disputes and prevent war. Today, Pok Ta Pok is played at festivals and ceremonies and has seen a revival with games across Central America as a team sport. Fun Fact: Belize is the world champion for the Pok Ta Pok!
Immersive Experiences: Learning and Living Maya Culture
Belize offers immersive experiences of Maya sites like Xunantuich, Caracol, Altun Ha, and cave systems such as Rio Frio, Che Chem Ha, and Actun Tunichil Muknal, where visitors can explore the mysteries concealed beneath the earth’s surface. These adventures provide an opportunity to learn the marvels of Maya architecture, art, and daily life, spotting remnants of pottery, human remains, and underground waterfalls.
Maya cooking and chocolate-making classes are culinary journeys back in time. By replicating ancient recipes and having farm-to-table experiences, participants gain a deeper understanding of the Maya’s relationship with the environment. Visitors can engage in an authentic Living Maya Experience, observing how they maintain their ancestorial way of life in their cozy thatch home.
Community Connections: Celebrating Belize’s Heritage
Belizean communities actively engage with their heritage, bridging the past and the present. Events like the Chocolate Festival in Toledo celebrate cacao, an integral part of Maya culture. The sacred crop that produces sweet or savory treats was a gold mine as it served as a currency, a healing property, and a ritual food to honor the Gods in the Maya Civilization. The festival showcases the history and versatility of chocolate production in Belize, reinforcing the connection between environment and culture.
The Indigenous Resistance Day Celebration in Corozal at Santa Rita temple is another significant event that pays tribute to the resilience of the Maya and other indigenous communities. It showcases cultural presentations to honor the rich heritage that shapes Belizean society. Likewise, The Institute of Archaeology hosts the International Archaeology Day fair at Maya sites, having several exhibitions such as epigraphy sessions, Pok Ta Pok game, information booths, university anthropology programs, and other organizations from similar industries.
In Belize, International Archaeology Day celebrates the living connection to the past. It reminds us that by understanding and preserving our heritage, we can create a more sustainable future.
Banner Photo Credit: Abdon Deromi Tzib