Orange Walk Travel Blog

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Cuello, I would make this a 4 star recommended site if it were not on private land. Permission can only be gotten during regular business hours of the distillery.

This is a historically significant site. It is great that the large excavation has been left open for viewing. Cuello is classified as a minor ceremonial site. It is located on the high ground between the Rio Hondo and Rio Nuevo, west of Orange Walk Town. The ceremonial center consists of two side by side plazas. The main temple of each plaza is flanked by civic structures and a small palace. Two underground storage chambers called chultuns, lie within the platform of this ceremonial center. Named after the Cuello Brothers Distillery the owners, is located (Latitude 18.

24 X Longitude - 88.58) 4 miles southwest of Orange Walk on Yo Creek Road. Permission to visit must be acquired from the Cuello Brothers distillery during normal business hours at Tel. 03-22141. This is the oldest recorded Maya site (2600 BC - 500 AD). Cuello has buildings from the classic era, but not a lot of emphasis is put on them because the older ruins have more of an archaeological significance.

Pre-Classic to formative period burials have been excavated. One of the earliest burials is that of a young woman. Her skull was deformed, apparently from use of a forehead sling called a tumpline. This young woman lay in a shallow grave cut into the surrounding limestone bedrock. A pottery bowl lay over her face and another lay at her feet. She also wore a necklace of roughly hewed shell beads.
Later burial sites of about 600 BC contained small jade beads. This is the first example of the use of semiprecious stone in the Maya area. The source of this jade has been traced to a site 250 miles to the south. This fact is important because it shows that long distance trade existed even at this early date.

Other artifacts found at Cuello support this evidence of long distance trade. Corn grinding utensils such as the manos and metates are made of pink sandstone from the Maya Mountains over 150 miles away. Archaeologists theorize that the movement of this relatively heavy stone was accomplished through water transport along the coast.

The Cuello site is unique in having numerous intact floors of very early ceremonial structures which separate plant remains into clearly defined units.
Flotation of soil samples has yielded a wide range of carbonized plant material including many maize cupules (cob fragments) and kernels.

There is evidence of some destruction of the ceremonial centers by fire. Deep excavations have unearthed a complex sequence of construction and reconstruction which spans most of the Pre-Classic period.

Norman Hammond first noticed Cuello in 1973. In 1973 the Cuello Brother Distillery reported the bulldozing of mounds on their land and the Archaeological Commissioner, Joseph Palacio, then formally registered the site. Using carbon dating, Hammond determined the date of this settlement was between 1500 and 2500 BC. Before this, the earliest date for the beginning of the Mayan Culture had been thought to be around 1500 BC.

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photo by: wendermilliken