Ancient Mayan society of Belize produced, stored, traded salt

While the presence of the ancient Maya civilization in the area now known as Belize is well-known, anthropologists are continuing to learn more about this enigmatic people. Recently, anthropologists made a fascinating discovery that revealed more information about how the Mayas obtained, stored, and traded salt. Specifically, more than 4,000 wooden posts have been found at a historic site known as Paynes Creek Salt Works in southern Belize.

Paynes Creek Salt Works spans across 3 square miles. This area is now under a shallow lagoon as a result of the natural rise of sea level over the years. In addition to the wooden posts that outlined the location of ancient salt kitchens, stone tools were also discovered at the site to provide anthropologists with information about how the Mayas produced large quantities of salt. Salt was used to preserve meat and fish, and it was also used to trade with other tribes in the region. The stone tools showed signs of usage wear, which indicates that they were used to cut meat and fish on-site while the salt produced in the area was immediately accessible for meat preservation.

The salt kitchens in the Paynes Creek Salt Works likely were places where brine was converted to salt through a boiling process. The pottery that was located at the site is called briquetage. In these containers, the salt hardened into a cake-like form so that it could be used or transported for trade.

It is believed that the Mayas transported the salt as far as 15 miles away by boat. This salt was essential to meet the nutritional needs of the ancient Maya people as well as of individuals in nearby communities that obtained the salt via trade. This discovery has been instrumental in confirming what anthropologists hypothesized about the Maya diet and culture.

Paynes Creek Salt Works is only one of the numerous ancient Maya cities that travelers to Belize can explore today. At many of these archaeological sites, you can take a guided tour, and you may even be able to view artifacts that have been recovered at the sites.

If you plan to visit Belize soon, now is the perfect opportunity to tour ancient Maya cities. While tours and excursions can be scheduled with our local tour company, another great way to explore these ancient ruins is by renting a car and visiting the sites at your own pace.

Barefoot Rentals and Services is one of the premier tour companies in Belize and offers a wide variety of adventure tours for discerning travelers visiting Belize.

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