La Milpa archaeological site lies within the Rio Bravo Conservation Area, a 250,000-acre tract of land preserved for research and sustainable use by the Programme for Belize. The Programme for Belize is a private, non-profit, Belize-based organization dedicated to the conservation and management of Belize's natural resources, namely the Rio Bravo area.
Sixty Mayan sites lie within the lands protected by Programme for Belize, including the third largest in Belize, La Milpa. Ranking below Caracol and Lamanai in size with eighty-four known structures, La Milpa lies between the Rio Azul and Lamanai. The name of this site refers to the widespread practice of slash-and-burn farming-a method of agriculture still utilized by present-day Mayans.
Archaeologists believe La Milpa peaked during the Classic Period (300-600 A.D.) only to collapse suddenly around the 9th century A.D. The main structure rises 600 feet above sea level atop a limestone ridge. Three other pyramids on the eastern side of the Great Plaza tower over seventy feet. On the southern side of the plaza, a caved in masonry building encasing at least thirteen rooms shows evidence of strong cosmic importance during La Milpa's cultural height.
Cane Fields of Northern Belize
Although many stellae have been looted over the years, those still visible clearly memorialize important events in the lives of the city's elite. The inhabitants of La Milpa also constructed two large pools on the southern edge of the Great Plaza. If filled to a depth of six and a half feet, each could hold 1.5 million gallons of freshwater. Another massive 300-foot wide limestone reservoir beyond the southwestern edge of the ridge still collects rainwater and reminds visitors of the ingenuity of Mayan settlers some 1500 years ago.
GIS generated elevation map of La Milpa's Center and Temples
Visitors can access La Milpa via the road from Chan Chich or a one and a half hour ride from Orange Walk Town. Guided tours are available through Programme for Belize's field station.
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