This Maya ruin might never have been found had archaeologists not found the right Belize guide.
If you’re searching the Internet for information on Marco Gonzalez, chances are, the first links you run into will get you to Chilean footballer Marco Gonzales and a young American baseball player with the same name who currently pitches for the Seattle Mariners.
These two young athletes won’t help your inquiry into Belize’s Marco Gonzalez because rather than being an athlete, the name belongs to a national park located near San Pedro on Ambergris Caye.
But there is no archaeologist by the name of Marco Gonzalez. In fact, Royal Ontario Museum archaeologists Elizabeth Graham and David Pendergast unearthed this site, revealing a wealth of Maya history surrounding the city, founded in 100 BC and abandoned by the Maya circa 1500 AD.
Here’s where the most heartwarming part of this story comes in: the scientists decided to name the ancient Maya ruin after local guide Marco Gonzalez in gratitude for his help during the arduous dig that revealed priceless Preclassic architecture in Belize between 1984 and 1994.
Visit and you’ll come to understand why it took these two scientists a decade to completely reveal the treasures that had theretofore been hidden amidst red, black and white mangrove swamp and the able assistance of one Marco Gonzalez!
What the team found was astonishing!
Imagine guide Marco Gonzalez accompanying these two scientists to this 607- by 1165-foot compound from San Pedro nearly every day for 10 years. The mound on which the ruin is located stands about 12-feet above sea level amid thick jungle, and the amount of shrubbery and overgrowth they had to traverse made those first days a daunting journey.
Having scoured the area for signs of a Maya presence, the team was delighted to unearth all manner of artifacts that included conch, other shells, pottery, primitive chert tools, human bones and plenty of the debris anthropologists look for when they are trying to determine if an area had been inhabited by people.
Once the heart of this compound was reached, the team identified and mapped 49 structures and walls, some of which were erected around plazas while others offered no centralizing architectural element. Foundations were laid down of Pleistocene limestone, quarried elsewhere and carried to the site by Maya laborers. A type of plaster covered the limestone and academicians believe that they supported poles topped by thatched roofs woven of tree fronds.
How close can you get if you visit this area?
As the only official Maya site located on Ambergris Caye, it will take a little time to get to the area but if you contact a guide to take you to the area located about 5 miles south of San Pedro and don’t mind dodging some mangrove swamp, you can hire a guide, but don’t come now.
Wait until the construction of the visitor’s and education center (plans are drawn up; construction will start in 2020) so you can enjoy interactive experiences being designed for visitors eager to know more about the first people to walk this land. You can also keep tabs on the project while you make your travel plans and if you’d like to make a donation to help fund the center, your contribution will be greatly appreciated.
Just because the center is being constructed, you can still wander the area for. Bring bug spray, water and your binoculars because this region also happens to be an epicenter for birds. Myriad species of birds fly over, stick around or perch in the swamp in this area, so your trip here wouldn’t be wasted.
You could encounter wading birds, swallows, warblers and iconic mangrove cuckoos if you come equipped to go birding. By visiting this area to go birding, once the Marco Gonzalez Maya information center has been completed, you’ll know the lay of the land almost as well as the guy for whom this ruin is named!