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Maya Past Protected Volume 51 Number 5, September/October 1998
by Angela M.H. Schuster

[image] Newly created rain forest park (Anabel Ford, El Pilar Archaeological Reserve) [LARGER IMAGE]

After more than ten years of negotiation, a 4,000-acre tract of tropical rain forest straddling the Belize-Guatemala border has been set aside for conservation and preservation. Known as the El Pilar Archaeological Reserve for Flora and Fauna, the park features a 75-acre Maya site occupied between 300 B.C. and A.D. 1000. With 15 plazas and numerous structures, El Pilar, which reached its apogee in the Late Classic period (ca. A.D. 600-900), is the largest site in the Belize River area. An extensive trail system has been developed and visitors can witness traditional farming and craft production by modern-day Maya. "We see the reserve as a living museum," says project director Anabel Ford of the University of California, Santa Barbara, who has led excavations at the site since 1983.

It is hoped that the reserve, whose revenues will be derived primarily from ecotourism, will serve as a model for sustainable development throughout the region, which has been losing natural resources to clear cutting and slash-and-burn agriculture in recent years. The El Pilar agreement marks the first time Guatemala and Belize have cooperated on a cultural issue since the latter (formerly British Honduras) achieved independence in 1981.

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© 1998 by the Archaeological Institute of America
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