Maya Post classic Period and Historic Maya of Belize:
Current Research and Key Issues
By: J. Alexander Bennett
John Morris and Jaime Awe in their paper focused
on archaeological research in Belize, which provides insights into the Postclassic Period of Maya Civilization (A.D. 1000-1500), following the
“collapse” of the southern Maya lowland city-states and the end of the Classic Maya civilization (A.D. 750-900).
Archaeological investigations during the latter
part of the twentieth century have revealed that the period known as the Postclassic (A.D. 1000-1500) was not one of absolute demise. Maya
traditions and ways of life did not disappear but rather changed from the central lowlands of Mexico to the northern highlands. There is still
much to learn about what actually happened.
For easy reference, it is useful to recall that
Mayan chronology may be divided into six periods: Paleo-Indian, Archaic, Preclassic (or Formative), Classic, and Postclassic. Postclassic,
moreover, may be divided into two periods: the Early Postclassic (A.D. 900-1250) and the Late Postclassic (A.D. 1250-1519). The Early
Postclassic is marked by the dominance of Chichén Itzá in Yucatán. The Late Postclassic is the period that saw fall of Chichén Itzá and the
rise of Mayapan, fragmentation throughout the northern Maya lowlands and, seemingly, the increase of maritime trade around Yucatán and beyond.
It is in the latter part of this period that the Spanish Conquistadors arrived in the sixteenth century.
Politically, at the start of the Late Postclassic
period Chichén Itzá, Mayapan, and Izamal were among the most prominent cities in Yucatán. The ruler of Chichén Itzá was Chac Xib Chac, and
that of Mayapan was Hunac Ceel. A serious conflict arose between the ruler of Chichén Itzá and Izamal, resulting in the routing of the Itzá
clan from Chichén. Eventually, many of the Itzá left Yucatán and settled in Petén (in Guatemala).
After the fall of Chichén, the Cocom family of
Mayapan became the most powerful family line of Mayapan. They demanded that the leaders of all the Mayan provinces live at Mayapan, thereby
forming what has been termed the “League of Mayapan”, comprised of sixteen city-states.
It is important to understand this organization
of the Maya people as it has a bearing on the province of Chetumal, which extended from Quintana Roo to the Belize River.
The capital of Chetumal was sited just outside of
what is now Corozal Town, at the Santa Rita site (ancient Chetumal). The city of ancient Chetumal was under the Can family. In 1441, the Xiu
clan rose up against the Cocoms, eventually defeating them. The leadrs of the Cocoms were sacrificed and their followers driven from Mayapan.
With the disbanding of the League of Mayapan, the Maya state reverted to individual , rival provinces embroiled in civil wars, until the
Spaniards arrived in A.D. 1519.