The dawn and the dusk: beginning and ending a long-term research program at the Preclassic Maya site of Cuello, Belize

  • Norman Hammond Department of Archaeology, Boston University, Boston, MA, USA
Keywords: Maya archaeology, Preclassic chronology, diet, burial practices, sweatbath


The early Maya village site of Cuello, Belize, was investigated between 1975 and 2002. When investigations began, the Maya Preclassic was not well known, was poorly documented by radiocarbon dates, and did not extend back beyond 900 B.C. Initial dates from Cuello suggested a very early occupation, subsequently disproved and revised to begin ca. 1200 B.C. The site remains the oldest known lowland Maya village site, however, and also the most extensively-excavated early Middle Preclassic settlement. Buildings, including numerous houses, emergent public architecture, the earliest known Mesoamerican sweatbath (Maya pib na); almost 200 burials, with evidence of social ranking and long-distance exchange; and evidence of diet and environmental exploitation all help to document the initial phases of a tropical forest farming culture which developed into one of the major Pre-Columbian civilizations.