La Milpa, Belize

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Major Lowland Maya site situated at 180 m above sea level on an upland area between the Río Bravo escarpment and the Río Azul. The site was first explored by Sir Eric Thompson in 1938 but only rarely studied between that time and 1992, when a major new survey and investigation programme began under the direction of Norman Hammond.

The focus of the site occupies an area some 680 m by 250 m and is dominated by the Great Plaza. At c.165 m by 120 m this plaza is one of the largest public spaces built by the Maya. It is dominated by four large temple pyramids, the highest of which rises 24 m above the plaza floor. To the south are two reservoirs, and beyond them a second group of buildings comprising three open plazas and a series of open courtyards. There are also two ball‐courts, an acropolis, and a royal residence.

Eighteen stelae are known at La Milpa, most of them set on the eastern side of the Great Plaza in front of the pyramids. They were erected over a period of nearly four centuries between ad 406 and 780, possibly longer. In Contact Period times, c.ad 1500–1650, some of these monuments may have been moved by pilgrims who also deposited incense‐burners in front of some of them.

Around the ceremonial core of the site there is extensive evidence of occupation with perhaps as many as 130 courtyards. Small‐scale excavations suggest a sequence of occupation from late Pre‐Classic times through to the Post‐Classic.


G. Tourtellot III, A. Clarke, and N. Hammond, 1993, Mapping La Milpa: a Maya city in northwestern Belize. Antiquity, 67, 96–108

Subjects: Archaeology.

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