Mayan Mystery Solved

Cahal Pech, Mayan Site, San Ignacio Belize

We’ve accomplished something scores of archeologists, with a lifetime of study, have failed to do. With a single visit to a single Mayan site, we’ve solved the enduring mystery of what caused the collapse of a once great civilization.

Over some 3,000 years of development, the Mayan people progressed into a populous and intellectually advanced society. At their peak, around 800 A.D., they had acquired an advanced understanding of mathematics, astronomy, agriculture and architecture. They built elaborate city states with magnificent palaces and soaring temples that supported a population of millions.

And then, sometime around the 8th century, this great society went into decline. Its city states were eventually abandoned; its population dispersed. The reasons for the collapse are still unexplained. That is until know.

Cahal Pech, San Ignacio Belize

Impossibly steep steps: a Mayan ruin staple

We ventured to Cahal Pech, a former home of an elite Mayan family located outside of San Ignacio, Belize, on a damp and rainy afternoon. We climbed through the limestone ruins, scaling the steep and unevenly spaced steps. Here we discovered something the Mayan couldn’t have known at the time; something that eventually led to their “fall.”

A chemical reaction between water, algae, and limestone creates a soapy like material. We found it covering most surfaces on the day of our visit, making everything as slick as ice. Nobody knows why the elite Mayan family left Cahal Pech, or why the Mayan abandoned their magnificent cities, but it is likely they mostly met their demise on one of the many impossibly steep and slippery stair cases – just as we almost did.

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9 Comments on “Mayan Mystery Solved”

  1. chebandbecky February 24, 2012 at 9:35 am #

    Phew; I’m glad you figured that out. It’s been bothering me for quite some time. Maybe you two can investigate some other ancient mysteries? 🙂


  2. Deano February 24, 2012 at 11:43 am #

    I know this first hand…ended up in hosptial in Guatemala thanks to very similar steps in Tikal and their ample slipperyness!


  3. Marcia Clarke February 24, 2012 at 1:01 pm #

    Sounds very reasonable to me, sllppery slopes will do us all in, if not careful.


  4. Pat Bean February 25, 2012 at 10:08 am #



  5. Anita Flowers February 25, 2012 at 7:11 pm #

    Even in Pembrokeshire … in my back garden, slippery steps … my son Luke can tell you all about his demise!


  6. Cabbie Notes February 26, 2012 at 6:39 pm #

    Perhaps the Mayans should have shared their experiences with the Incans. I’ve never been to Cahal Pech, but I’ve been to Machu Picchu and there are a lot of steep stairs there where I’ve lost my footing a few times.


  7. crazysexyfuntraveler February 28, 2012 at 11:18 am #

    Oh, I saw miss all those Mayan archeological sites! How many of them did you visit in Belize? It is on my bucket list!


    • Brian February 29, 2012 at 10:11 am #

      I think we’ve hit five different sites. All very different and interesting.



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    […] surprisingly, death defying limestone stairs lead up the 130 foot El Castillo […]


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