and Ambergris Caye
The Mayan civilization
flourished in Central America from about 2000 B.C. to about 1000
A.D. These short, muscular built, red-skinned Indians built great
temples, made astonishing artifacts, tools and pottery, carved their
history on slabs of stelae and made scholastic achievements that
forever changed the world. They were great astronomers, created
an efficient calendar, derived their own writing system and developed
ingenious mathematical concepts including the concept of 0.
greatest achievements was that they managed to devise a fantastic
trade route throughout Central America from Mexico to as far off
as Roatan Island, Honduras. It is believed that the first Mayan
setters that occupied Ambergris Caye totaled 10,000, inhabited almost
every part of the island and initially set up fishing villages.
As their settlements progressed they converted their settlements
into trading centers.
To better accommodate
their trading, it is believed that the Mayans dug a narrow channel,
less that a mile long and no wider than a few feet, at the northern
most tip of the Caye. Actually, Ambergris Caye is not really a caye
but rather the end of the Yucatan Peninsula. The channel separates
Ambergris Caye from Mexico and allowed the Mayans to cut their travel
time considerably, since they no longer had to travel all the way
around the island to get to northern mainland Belize and Chetumal
Bay. Today the channel is called Bacalar Chico and is a marine reserve.
The Mayans continued
to thrive until about 1000 A.D. when they declined and left the
island unoccupied until the coming of a new people who would contribute
monumentally to the history of the Island.
Pirates and Ambergris Caye
In the 1600s
British pirates roaming the Caribbean found a little haven, discretely
tucked inside a great barrier reef. It is believed that the pirates
used Ambergris Caye as a safehaven to hide-out and stash their valuables
and that they eventually dredged the Bacalar Channel to facilitate
the transportation of their treasures to mainland Belize. It is
during this period that Ambergris Caye supposedly got its name.
The pirates, always out to make a quick buck, are believed to have
been whalers and eventually logwood cutters. It is said that the
pirates collected Whale excrement, called ambergris, that washed
up on shore of the island. The oil from this ambergris was sent
to Europe where it was highly valued for its use in making perfumes.
eventually turned to logwood cutting on the mainland, and left the