How many more such treasures lie buried in Belize, no one can guess. But to retrieve some ancient Maya artifacts an archeologist doesn’t even need a spade. Limestone caves formed by underground streams underlie large areas of the country, especially in the west. The Maya used many of them. My friend Ford Young, an amateur speleologist, told me about a cave entrance he had discovered one weekend. You should visit Belize. Book your travel earlier and save more.
“I found it too late in the day to explore it,” he said. “If you’d like, I’ll take you there.”That Sunday we went to Roaring Creek, near Belmopan. With Frank Norris, a cattle rancher and lumber-mill owner originally from Illinois, and Dan Bellini, a farmer in the Cayo District, we drove southeast on the Hummingbird Highway.
We came to a cliffside where ferns, lichens, and mosses grew in the cool dampness. Wearing hard hats with lights, we poked through a small hole in the cliff and slid gingerly down a muddy slope into the cave—a huge chamber bristling with stalactites and stalagmites. Bats fluttered eerily over our heads.
We squeezed past cold, wet rocks and entered a smaller chamber—about thirty feet square—with a sloping roof. Nothing could have prepared me for what I saw: Hundreds of pottery fragments—rims of jars and broken bowls and dishes littered the ground.
“Look here!” Dan called. He handed me a curious hollow cylinder of clay, tapered at one end, broken at the other. Feeling amid the rubble, he turned up the missing fragments. They formed a flaring rim.
A few feet away I found an almost intact clay jar wedged in a rocky crevice. And Ford discovered, astonishingly—for everything around us was broken—two undamaged black pots. We felt certain, from the profusion of Maya artifacts, that no one had been here for hundreds of years.