RIO BEC

The Rio Bec sites are extremely isolated and difficult to visit—so much so that Rio Bec B was lost to archaeologists for 61 years after its initial discovery in 1912.

John Hagenbuch, who took all of the photos in this section, writes: "The road (actually more of a track) is definitely for 4-wheel-drive only, and there are many totally unmarked forks. Diane (who conducts tours to the Rio Bec sites and knows the French archaeologists who have been working there for the past six years) managed to get us to Rio Becs A, B, D, G, and 4, and I took a lot of pictures. It was difficult to get full pictures of the ruins; the forest was cleared for only 20 or 30 feet around the buildings, so I did the best I could.

I will fill you in on the sites at Rio Bec itself. Rio Bec A consists of the single building whose photos you already have. At Rio Bec B, there are two groups: north and south. The photos you have are from the north group; here there are two buildings (6N-1 and 6N-2). I can't for the life of me remember which is which; both are pure Rio Bec types, but one is in an advanced state of ruin, while the other, as you see, has been extensively restored and stabilized. The second group at Rio Bec B also has two buildings, but they are much smaller and rather unimpressive. There is no arrangement into a Great Plaza, as at Tikal and Calakmul. At Rio Bec D there are again two rather small and unimpressive buildings; they are under excavation and restoration. Rio Bec G and Rio Bec 4 have not been cleared, excavated, or restored. They are still covered by the jungle, but the French archaeologists were sinking test trenches to get an estimate of the time frame, etc. Rio Bec G had two buildings, and Rio Bec 4 had one, at least as well as I could tell. Thus nowhere at the Rio Bec sites did we see any grand temples or plazas.

The lead French archaeologist at Rio Bec B (Charlotte - I never heard her last name) says that there are no towns in the Rio Bec area. The sites (upwards of seventy of them) are all small, consisting of at most a few buildings. She believes that they were the Maya-era equivalent of haciendas, occupied by an elite family or extended family supervising a group of peasant farmers in the immediate surrounding area. I do not find it hard to believe that one of these aristocrats, after a visit to the Peten, decided to build a smaller-scale copy of what he had seen. His neighbors then decided to keep up with the (Indiana?) Joneses and the style spread to surrounding areas, which put their own unique touches on it."

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