The mopan Maya words ‘Cahal Pech’ translate to “Place of the Ticks”. It was given that name in the 1950’s because of the vast number of ticks that flourished the six acre ground formerly used as a cattle pasture. It is unlikely however, that visitors will encounter ticks on the site today.
Located in the northwestern part of the Cayo district, overlooking the quaint town of San Ignacio and the Macal River, Cahal Pech sits in a thick, lush jungle setting. Just a short ten-minute walk from the town’s center, Cahal Pech is probably the only Mayan site that is so easily accessible while still maintaining the intrigue of transporting visitors to an ancient Mayan world. It is believed that the archeological site was populated around 1000 BC until 800 AD. Thirty-four structures including several courtyards, temple pyramids and residential buildings make up the site’s center. Most noteworthy is its tallest structure approximating 23.5 meters – 77 feet high.
Studies reveal that Cahal Pech was once a “royal acropolis”, with a palace inhabited by an elite Mayan family during the classical period. Visitors can let their imagination run wild as they explore the narrow interconnecting corridors, the small, steep steps and the dark, cool rooms that could have been the actual sleeping quarters of a royal family. Exploring the detailed lay out of the palace is an amazing and unforgettable experience. Evidence suggests existence of monumental construction from as early as the middle pre-classic period, 400 BC.
Discovered by Peter Schmidt in 1969 was the royal tomb of a ruler who had been laid to rest in one of the temples. Found inside were jade objects, obsidian blades, shell and bone ornaments, some ceramic vessels and a mysterious jade and shell mosaic mask. Between the years 1970 and 1985, the site was unfortunately looted on numerous occasions. The destruction of the site became a serious concern to the people of San Ignacio who recognized the site’s cultural value. Eventually, in 1988, a formal large-scale excavation took place that continues today. Recent restoration work makes this site one of Belize’s favorites.