Archaeology Magazine - Maya Caves of West-Central Belize: Barton Creek Cave - Archaeology Magazine Archive

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Barton Creek Cave "Maya Caves of West-Central Belize"
Summer 2000

Barton Creek is a large river cave possibly over 4.5 miles long. (See map for location.) The cave consists of giant passages covered with numerous large speleothems over a navigable river. These features of the cave have made it a popular tourist destination. Our research at Barton Creek Cave hopes to record prehistoric Maya activity at the site and to incorporate this information in the production of a report that can be shared with other archaeologists and interested visitors.

Recent investigations at Barton Creek Cave have provided a wealth of information toward our understanding of the importance of caves within Maya culture. An abundance of Maya cultural material has been discovered and is being analyzed from ten ledges located above a large subterranean river. Based on preliminary results, artifacts from these areas suggest the cave was used for a variety of purposes by the Maya including agricultural rituals, possible fertility rites, ritual bloodletting, human sacrifice, and lineage internment.

Excavations at Barton Creek Cave in 2000 were supervised by Vanessa Mirro, who is pursuing her M.A. at Colorado State University; Mike Mirro, a professional archaeologist working in the state of Wyoming; and Caitlin O'Grady, a graduate student in archaeological conservation at New York University.

Field Updates:

July 10, 2000

July 17, 2000

September 27, 2000


Excavation of human remains from a crevice on Ledge 8, an ancient flowstone terrace twenty feet above the river, within Barton Creek Cave.


Early Classic (A.D. 300-600) bowl fragment found in association with human remains

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