Present day Mayans
Today, evidence of this great ancient civilization is found throughout Belize in the form of ancient archeological sites to modern day Mayas practicing many aspects of their impressive heritage. Below is a list of major historical Mayan sites in Belize, from hidden caves to soaring pyramids. They vary in the degree to which they have been excavated and their ease of accessibility. If you are interested in exploring some of these sites for yourself, you’ll find Hamanasi a convenient central location. We offer several tours that take you to Mayan sites on this list, such as Mayflower, Xunantunich and Actun Tunich Muknal, and our Adventure Center can arrange tours to many others upon request.
Actun Tunichil Muknal
Actun Tunichil Muknal (the Cave of the Crystal Sepulchre) or ATM is located in the Tapir Mountain Nature Reserve in the Cayo District. Access to the site involves swimming through a river at the mouth of the cave and hiking deep into the cave. Inside there are many signs of that the cave was used for ceremonial purposes. Ceramic pots and pottery shards, skeletons, and skeletal remains litter the cave. The site is noted for the calcified skeleton of an adolescent, possibly a sacrifice victim. Many beautiful formations are throughout the cave, some of which the Maya modified to create alters or the shadowy appearance of animals and faces.
Thirty miles north of Belize City and 6 miles inland from the Caribbean shore is Altun Ha. Standing at 54 feet (16m) high is The Temple of the Masonry Altars, the largest pyramid at the site. Look for its image on the logo of the local Belizean Belikin beer. There are several tombs at the site. One contained an adult male who was buried with jade, shells, pearls, animal teeth, tools and other items. It is believed that the ruler or the peoples were somehow associated with the Mexican site Teotihuacan, evidenced by green obsidian objects and ceramic bowls, jars and dishes. Another notable tomb is the Sun God’s Tomb, containing an adult male skeleton. The tomb was painted red and contained many items, the most noteworthy is a carved jade head of the Sun God, Kinich Ahau placed at the pelvis of the body. Stucco faces can be found on the sides of pyramids.
Baking Pot archaeological site is located in the Belize River Valley northeast of modern day town of San Ignacio in the Cayo District. After extensive research, archeologists believe that the site had a large population into the Post Classic period, long after other settlements were declining. The site has a complex water management system and several uncarved stelae and uncarved altars. Baking Pot name was given after archaeologists found large pots used to boil chicle.
This site just downriver from Baking Pot is interesting as it has many small earthen mounds indicating it was a housing settlement located on the floodplain of the Belize River. Harvard Archaeologist, Gordon Willey, first started academic work at this site over fifty years ago. Unlike other sites, Barton Ramie is not characterized by large temple-pyramids, carved stone monuments or standing stone architecture. The raised earthen mounds have some stone facings. This rural settlement was abandoned sometime around the time of the Mayan collapse.
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