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Caracol, Belize

Caracol or El Caracol is the name given to a large ancient Maya site located in the Cayo District of the nation of Belize. Caracol is about 25 miles south of Xunantunich and San Ignacio Cayo, at an elevation of 1500 feet above sea-level in the foothills of the Maya Mountains. The name is Spanish for "The Snail"; the ancient Maya name appears not yet to be known.

The site was occupied as early as 1200 BC, but had its greatest period of construction in the Maya Classic period, with over 40 monuments dated between 485 to 889 which record the dynastic sequence of the rulers.

Ancient Caracol was one of the largest ancient Maya cities, covering some 65 square miles with an extimated peak population of about 120,000, or possibly even 180,000 people. One monument here records a military victory over the army of Tikal in 562.

The site was discovered in 1938. More extensive explorations and documention of the site was undertaken by the University of Pennsylvania in 1951 and 1953. A project of archaeological excavations and restorations of the ancient structures at Caracol started in 1985 and is ongoing.

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