Santa Rita is located on the outskirts of Corozal Town and is bordered on the east by the Caribbean Sea. It is near the Coca Cola factory just off the main road leading to the border town, Santa Elena, on the way to Mexico. Santa Rita was probably the ancient coastal trading city known as Chetumal during the Late Post-Classic Period.
In ancient times the Maya occupied parts of Mexico, all of Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador and parts of Honduras. Maya borders did not follow the political boundaries of today. Just prior to European conquest, the northern part of one Maya province lay in what is today’s Quintana Roo (Mexico); the southern part was in Belize, with the southern extremes including Guinea Grass and Northern River. Ancient Maya Chetumal was not today’s Mexican Chetumal, but what is now Santa Rita on the outskirts of Corozal Town. Ancient Chetumal, wealthy because of the large production of cacao and honey, ruled the areas on both sides of the Rio Hondo.
Structure 7 is the tallest of all the structures at Santa Rita and one of the only few that still exist. It once rose 15 meters above the plaza surface and forms the northern building and focal point for this group which also contains Structures 40 and 42. The first investigations into this structure were carried out by Thomas Gann who recovered a burial and a cache at the summit, but he refused to go any further due to the hard nature of the structure’s core. Subsequent investigations were carried out by Drs Arlen and Diane Chase with the Corozal Postclassic Project in 1979, 84 and 85, and most recently by the Institute of Archaeology in 2013 and 2014.
Studies done on the murals of Santa Rita revealed them to be of Mixtec influence. The murals were found on Structure 1, located 580 yards northeast of Structure 7. This building faced north and all the walls were well preserved except for the southern wall. Thomas Gann had published complete drawings of the murals on the north and west walls, but only managed to partially record the mural on the east wall before they were all destroyed by local inhabitants. A safe estimate for the dates of these murals placed them in the Postclassic, between AD 1350 and 1500.
The scenes of the murals were framed above by a Mixtec skyband and below by a band that defined the earth. These were similar in style to the Mixtec codices. The murals seem to show a procession of individuals, some with their wrists tied either with rope or a serpent, while others carry ritual objects. In another scene, 2 figures flank an upright drum, and while one of them is beating a drum the other is holding two decapitated heads. The colors used on these murals include red, yellow, blue, green, black, white and grey, while dark blue and pink were used in the background. While the imagery was Mixtec, the hieroglyphics on the murals were Maya.
365 days in the year from 8 am – 5:00 pm
Fees & reservations
Belizeans: BZD $5.00
Belizeans enter FREE on Sundays and Public and Bank Holidays, take some for of ID.
School and Government Groups need to contact the IA office for official Pass to visit this site.