Cahal Pech is located on the southern edge of the modern town of San Ignacio, in the upper Belize Valley region of western Belize. While the extent of the site spreads over 16 km2, the site core is formed of dozens of structures surrounding a number of small and medium-sized plazas. These included the palaces of Cahal Pech’s royal family, the administrative buildings of the realm, as well as large pyramids built to honor the city’s gods and to serve as memorials over the tombs of the nobility. Cahal Pech also includes at least one sweat bath building and two ballcourts, where Cahal Pech’s noblemen once played the famous Maya ballgame, a game that saw the first use of rubber balls in sports and where the losers sometimes lost not only the game but also their heads.
Our investigations at Cahal Pech will focus on two objectives: continued investigations of the monumental architecture of the site core, and on settlement pattern studies in the sustaining area of the site. The investigations in the site core aim to further elucidate the status and complexity of this important center, from its establishment at the end of the Early Preclassic period (1200-900 B.C.) to its subsequent abandonment in the Terminal Classic period (~ AD 800-900). Specifically, we will continue exposing the terminal architecture of the site core’s western ballcourt. Our settlement research will involve mapping unrecorded mounds in the northern and eastern periphery of the site, and test excavations of these settlements.