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Xunantunich Maya Site

Posted By: Marty

Xunantunich Maya Site - 01/16/12 02:08 PM


View of the west side frieze at Xunantunich Maya Site in western Belize.

The name Xunantunich derives from the Yucatec Maya language and means “Stone Woman.” Local legend holds that around the end of the 1800s, a gentleman from the village of San Jose Succotz Belize went hunting near the site. Crossing the base of the Castillo, he was struck by the appearance of a beautiful statuesque Maya maiden, dressed in traditional “huipil” and “pik,”,and dazzling in the rays of the rising sun. The woman stood motionless by the mouth of a cave which extended beneath the large structure. Stricken by her appearance, the man threw his gun aside and ran downhill to the village. After recounting his tale several villagers led by their native priest returned to the site. Arriving at the large mound they found the mouth of the tunnel, but the stone maiden had disappeared. Thereafter locals claim that the woman has appeared to several others but none have been able to follow her into the cavern.

CLICK to Belize.com for the rest of this excellent article

Posted By: Marty

Re: Xunantunich Maya Site - 01/29/12 03:23 PM


Maya Ruins of Xunantunich, Belize - 2010

We were lucky enough to tour the huge Maya ruin of Xunantunich in western Belize during December of 2010. Our Tour Guide was Golden and as you can see from this video, we learned and observed a lot about the Maya Civilization.



The Magic of Xunantunich

What is it about Xunantunich?

Well, lots, actually, but we were still surprised to see our favourite ancient Maya site splashed across North American media from Canada down to sunny California this week in late May.

Yes, we stumbled across this wonderful ancient Maya site in the Hamilton Spectator (Ontario, Canada) online edition, and then two days later; there it was again in the Sioux City Journal (Iowa), and again in the Desert Sun (Palm Springs, California).

We shouldn’t be surprised, as Xunantunich is such an amazing find anywhere, and even stands out in the Maya heartland of Belize, but three times over the course of a few days?

Anyway, seeing it brought back so many memories of great times there that we felt the need to mention it again.

Mayan for “Stone maiden” Xunantunich is definitely one of Belize’s prettiest Maya archaeological sites, renowned for exquisite architecture, beautiful frescos and stelae, as well as its park-like atmosphere and stunning views from the top of El Castillo, the iconic pyramid temple.

Xunantunich was an important ceremonial centre built around AD 600 near the end of the Maya Late Classic Period, boasting a population of some 10,000 people at its peak, and apparently continued to thrive while other Maya centres such as Tikal and Caracol were in decline. However by around 1000 AD Xunantunich was abandoned.

Today Xunantunich quietly thrives again as, for our money, Belize’s most charming tourism destination. Across the Mopan river from the village of Succotz, you reach the site via a hand cranked ferry and either enjoy the walk uphill through a forest filled with monkeys and birds, or drive up to the informative visitors centre, which gives a good introduction to the local history and the importance of the site as a ceremonial centre.


Xunantunich’s centre contains two main plazas; plaza A and plaza B with groups C and D located around the periphery. The most impressive building is El Castillo, (or Structure A6 in archaeologist parlance). This beautiful pyramid with intricate stucco friezes sits some 183 meters above sea level and some 42 meters above plaza level. From its summit above the tree canopy you can enjoy spectacular vistas of jungle and farmland with the towns of San Jose Succotz and Benque Viejo Del Carmen on the Belize side and Melchor de Mencos across the Guatemalan border.

Of El Castillo’s two stucco friezes, the western side had most of the stucco destroyed, but the eastern frieze is more complete, clearly displaying various motifs and symbols of Maya astronomy and cosmology. The vaulted rooms at the top of the pyramid provide shade and are a welcome place to relax after the steep walk up and take in the views.

This is a great site for a day trip or picnic, and just walking around, checking out the ball courts and other structures fires the imagination, allowing you to picture how life would have been so many centuries ago when the entire Chaa Creek area was a thriving agricultural and trade hub, with the Macal and Mopan rivers important links carrying people and goods to various centres all the way down to the seacoast.

People come from far and wide to see this lovely remnant of the ancient Maya civilisation, but its close proximity to Chaa Creek makes it an easy and delightful excursion for their guests. It’s also features in Chaa Creek’s all-inclusive wedding and honeymoon vacation packages, affording an opportunity to actually get married with the grand pyramid as a backdrop, exchanging vows while standing on the same stones that so many centuries ago were used for Maya ceremonies. And the picturesque setting will be the highlight of any honeymoon album.

However, whatever your reasons are for visiting Xunantunich, you won’t go away disappointed. And by all means, don’t forget the camera.

Chaa Creek blog

Posted By: Marty

Re: Xunantunich Maya Site - 02/26/12 03:08 PM

Xunantunich is a well excavated and easily accessible Mayan site, close to San Ignacio in Belize. The Mayan ruins of Xunantunich are located atop a limestone ridge above the Mopan River, within sight of the Guatemala border. The central area is laid around three plazas surrounded by more than 20 structures.

It name means “Stone Woman” in the Maya language and, like many names given to Maya archaeological sites, is a modern name. It refers to the ghost of a woman claimed by several people to inhabit the site. The ancient name is unknown.

Xunantunich Mayan Ruins
El Castillo, the second tallest structure in Belize. Photo credit: perisho

History of Xunantunich

Xunantunich was a thriving Mayan city from about 600 to 900 AD. Evidence indicates that during the 10th century AD there was a disruption at Xunantunich, possible an earthquake, and the city and much of its sustaining hinterland was soon abandoned. The site was reoccupied centuries later while the structures were already in ruins.

Xunantunich Mayan Ruins Highlights

At 127 feet (39 m) the pyramid known as El Castillo is the second tallest structure in Belize, after the temple at Caracol. It’s a steep climb but the view from the top is worth it. The structure was probably built in three stages between the 7th and 9th century. At one time its frieze, a banded stucco decoration, extended around the entire pyramid. Today only a small part of the frieze remains which displays masks of the sun god flanked by signs of the moon, Venus and different days.

Visit the Xunantunich Mayan ruins

Xunantunich is located only a few miles west of San Ignacio (Hotels in San Ignacio). The Mayan ruins can be reached by taking the free ferry across the Mopan River. The entrance to the river ferry is right on the side of the Western Highway. The hand cranked ferry, which comes and goes on demand, takes you across in minutes. Then it’s about 1 mile uphill on a paved road to the ticket office.

The entrance fee is BZ$10.

Map of Xunantunich Belize

The map below shows the location of Xunantunich Belize. The buttons on the left can be used to zoom in or out. Click and drag the map to move around.

Source

Posted By: Marty

Re: Xunantunich Maya Site - 08/03/12 02:32 PM

Great Mayan Ruins by San Ignacio, Belize: Xunantunich

Colin and I were sun-stroked and drenched with sweat by the time we made it to San Ignacio, Belize’s famous Mayan ruins, Xunantunich… but man was it worth it. Come cyber-join us on our journey!


The “El Castillo” structure of the Xunantunich Mayan ruins in western Belize dates from around 800 C.E. and rises over 130 feet. In other news, Colin and I have very large muscles.

It took us hours to finally reach Xunantunich from our San Ignacio hotel due to a “hilarious” misunderstanding of how time is quantified in Belize.

Several local people had told us, “Oh yes, you can walk to the ruins. It’s not far,” but in reality, that statement was so false that Colin and I ended up walking along the side of the highway (flanked by endless neon green grass and curious cows) for over an hour in the blazing noon-time sun, panting at each hill’s crest: “It’s GOT to be close! Right?!” Wrong.


We staggered between the highway and these crazy green, cow-covered fields outside San Ignacio, Belize for over an hour, thinking the Xunantunich ruins were just over each hill. They weren’t.

Two miles and four times of nearly being run over by blue-painted school buses that serve as Belize’s main public transport later, I swoon-sat by the side of the road and refused to go on. Colin heroically stood by the highway until a taxi (marked in western Belize by nothing more than a green licence plate) chugged by.


To reach the ruins of Xunantunich, cross a river on this hand-cranked wooden ferry.

We climbed into the car, panting and grinning from relief. We either smelled so bad, or were so tall and surprising that everyone packed inside the vehicle was stunned into silence.

I tried chatting in English, then had more success in Spanish, given that we were right by the Guatemalan border. The ride revealed we were still miles away from the ferry to the hill to the ruins.


How amazing is the jungle around Xunantunich? Look at the tiny people next to the towering trees!

“You saved us!” I gushed to the leathery driver in Spanish as we paid him. He cracked the first smile of the ride and puttered off.

“Hello,” said a soft spoken Belizean man with the local Jamaican-like accent. “Would you like a guide for the ruins? It will enhance your experience. It will be $20 U.S. dollars total.”

“We should probably get a guide,” reasoned Colin, “or we’ll just be dumbly looking at rocks.”


Without our excellent guide at Xunantunich, we would have just been ignorantly staring at stones.

Let me tell you: This guide was well worth $20. He knew everything, and was professional, patient, and interesting. In addition to his knowledge, he also displayed such love and reverence for Xunantunich (despite having led the tour hundreds or even thousands of times) that it inspired us.

Again and again we are impressed by the caliber of the Belizean tourist industry and its people.


We climbed all the way up to the top of El Castillo where you can sit on the edge, no guardrail!

Our guide even explained to us about the misinterpretation that had led us to hike along the highway for miles: “The people told you the ruins were close by because they wanted to make you feel better.”

“Um, that didn’t really make us feel better,” said Colin, swaying from the continued sunstroke.

Since then, we now know to multiply any time estimates here in Belize by at least three.


The sides of Xunantunich are adorned with ornate, symbolic decorations. When we visited, these girls were sliding down the grass like I used to fly down snowy hills in Boston’s winter.

Now let’s talk about Xunantunich. These celebrated Mayan ruins are around 1,212 years old, awe-inspiring, and rightly considered some of the best in Belize.

Several facts stood out to us. One, the tallest structure (“El Castillo”), which we ultimately climbed, has a secret back staircase. The Mayan ruler used to walk up the front staircase to halfway up the pyramid, then flit over to the back staircase, where he’d enter the building and do a quick costume change. He’d then emerge (seemingly by magic) at the very top of the structure, just like a god!


How often do you get to sit atop a 1,212-year old, 130-foot-tall ancient Mayan building? Unbelievable.

Another fact about Xunantunich that made me gasp centered around sports: They ancient Mayans used to play a ball game similar to soccer… and KILL the losing team! When the Mayans would play this sport, one team would usually be made up of captives from other places– unfortunate souls who had never played the ball game before. Which side do you think usually lost??

This piece of athletic history gave new weight to the Olympic events Colin and I watched that evening. There was a time when sports WERE life or death!


Does this spot look tempting to you? Then travel to the Xunantunich Mayan Ruins in San Ignacio, Belize!

When we finally made it back to our hotel that evening, we were so tired we could barely move. We sprawled on the bed, murmuring, “What an honor it was to climb 1,212-year-old Mayan ruins today!”

Source

Posted By: Marty

Re: Xunantunich Maya Site - 09/07/12 03:13 PM


Here's a site with some cool drawings of Mayan temples from around Cayo, Belize, and La Ruta Maya.

"Steve Radzi, owner of Mayavision, is a renown illustrator of Mayan archaological sites throughout Mexico, Belize and Guatemala. He is located in Coral Springs, Florida."

LINK

Posted By: Marty

Re: Xunantunich Maya Site - 05/16/14 11:15 AM

XUNANTUNICH, Stunning Archeaological site in Belize

XUNANTUNICH, BELIZE — It’s not as famous as Yucatán’s Chichen Itza. It’s not as tall as Guatemala’s Tikal. But there in western Belize, the Xunantunich Mayan ruins will make your jaw drop. And maybe your palms sweat.

Pronounced shoe-NAN-to-nitch (or as some tourists mangle it, Tuna Sandwich) its name means “stone maiden.” The dominant structure, El Castillo, is notable not only for its elegant friezes of hieroglyphs depicting rulers and gods, but for the fact that visitors can still climb to the top of the 130-foot temple, if they dare.

Unlike at Mexico’s Chichen Itza, which was closed to climbers in 2006 after a woman fell to her death, Xunantunich’s climb is done in bits and pieces, with plenty of flat places to stop — and even a handrail staircase for the final descent.

Still, it’s not for everyone.

Xunantunich Mayan Ruins in Belize

Xunantunich Mayan Ruins in Belize

I’m afraid of heights,” one tour guide confessed as he stood in the shade on a plaza halfway up, watching the rest of his group ascend to the very top. “The view is still good from here.”

View from the top

View from the top

Mayan grandeur

Reachable independently by car or as a day-trip excursion for cruise ships docked in Belize City (see sidebar), Xunantunich is one of Belize’s top attractions, although many Americans have never heard of it.

The entrance near the village of San José Succotz is surrounded by small shopping kiosks selling crafts and textiles. From there, every person, vehicle and animal must cross the Mopan River on a hand-cranked ferry to enter the park. Then it is a 1-mile uphill trudge to the visitors plaza (or a swift ride in a mini-bus, highly recommended in this humid climate where the average temperature is 88 degrees.)

From there, you walk a bit farther, past a gift shop, a brand new visitors center that opened March 21, groves of allspice trees, then onto a grass-covered plaza and the humbling sight of El Castillo.

In Xunantunich’s heyday, roughly 600 to 900 AD, “the walls would have been whitewashed plaster and almost certainly painted,” says Jason Yaeger, University of Texas at San Antonio professor of anthropology, who has spent every summer for 23 years in and around Xunantunich. The site spreads out with 26 structures and multiple plazas, many still uncovered.

In terms of importance, “It is a middle-sized site, not as big as (Guatemala’s) Tikal certainly, but at certain times in its history, it was the capital of an autonomous kingdom.”

Although many people think Mayan culture was restricted to what is now Mexico, the grand kingdoms of the first millennium spread throughout what is now Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras.

Xunantunich just became a tourist attraction in the early 1990s as excavations progressed and tourism infrastructure was added. Today it draws about 46,000 visitors a year.

Stairway to the main temple

Stairway to the main temple

I found that the special beauty of Xunantunich was compounded by its setting in Belize’s western Cayo District.

This region of rolling hills and rivers looks a lot like Pennsylvania, except with monkeys. It seemed somehow familiar. Relaxing. Some researchers believe Xunantunich was more of a royal ritual getaway, like a country place to escape the nasty politics back in the city. I can see that. I could live here.

From the top of El Castillo, one can kick back and look out at gorgeous vistas for 360 degrees. Problems? What problems?

It wasn’t all fun

Of course, the site and region do have reminders of the sometimes cruel world of the Maya. There’s a ball court, where the loser of the games faced sudden death — literally. Not far from Xunantunich is a mysterious cave that was important for Mayan ritual and human sacrifice.

For Yaeger, a Decatur, Mich., native, it is worth spending extra time in the region to see not only Xunantunich and other ruins, but also Actun Tunichil Muknal (in English, Cave of the Crystal Sepulchre), thought by the ancient Maya to be an entrance to the underworld. The cave was rediscovered in 1989.

It’s an all-day adventure tourism trip,” he says. “You hike through jungle and swim a river to get to a cave, then walk through an underground stream for a quarter-mile, then climb into a giant chamber where the Maya left offerings. Sacrificial victims, food offerings, skulls, they are still there on the altars, left where the Maya placed them,” he says. “And you see a small niche where a woman was sacrificed 1,200 years ago, and there are (sparkling calcite) crystals all over her bones.”

After that, a climb to the top of Xunantunich’s El Castillo will seem simple.

Source: Detroit Free Press

Belize - Xunantunich from Keith'ster on Vimeo.

Journey to Xunantunich

A guest to Xunantunich made a pretty cool video of the journey from Belize to El Castillo.


Xunantunich from The Learning Cycle on Vimeo.

Xunantunich

Posted By: Marty

Re: Xunantunich Maya Site - 05/22/14 12:09 PM


Xunantunich is a grand Mayan ruin in the rolling countryside of western Belize's Cayo District.

Mayan glory days at Xunantunich ruins

It's not as famous as Mexico's Chichen Itza. It's not as tall as Guatemala's Tikal.

But in western Belize, the Xunantunich Mayan ruins will make your jaw drop.

And maybe your palms sweat.

Pronounced shoe-NAN-to-nitch (or as some American tourists mangle it, Tuna Sandwich) its name means "stone maiden."

The dominant structure, El Castillo, is notable not only for its elegant friezes of hieroglyphs depicting rulers and gods, but for the fact that visitors can still climb to the top of the 40-metre temple, if they dare.

Unlike Mexico's Chichen Itza, which was closed to climbers in 2006 after a woman fell to her death, Xunantunich's climb is done in bits and pieces, with plenty of flat places to stop - and even a handrail staircase for the final descent.

Still, it's not for everyone.

"I'm afraid of heights," one tour guide confessed as he stood in the shade on a plaza halfway up, watching the rest of his group ascend to the very top.

"The view is still good from here."

Reachable independently by car or as a day-trip excursion for cruise ships docked in Belize City, Xunantunich is one of Belize's top attractions, although many tourists have never heard of it.

The entrance near the village of San Jose Succotz is surrounded by small shopping kiosks selling crafts and textiles. From there, every person, vehicle and animal must cross the Mopan River on a hand-cranked ferry to enter the park.

Then it is a 1.6-kilometre uphill trudge to the visitors plaza (or a swift ride in a mini-bus, highly recommended in this humid climate where the average temperature is 31C.)

From there, you walk a bit further, past a gift shop, a brand new visitors centre that opened on March 21, groves of allspice trees, then onto a grass-covered plaza and the humbling sight of El Castillo.

In Xunantunich's heyday, roughly 600 to 900 AD, "the walls would have been whitewashed plaster and almost certainly painted," says Jason Yaeger, University of Texas professor of anthropology, who has spent every summer for 23 years in and around Xunantunich. The site spreads out with 26 structures and multiple plazas, many still uncovered.

In terms of importance, Yaeger says: "It is a middle-sized site, not as big as (Guatemala's) Tikal certainly, but at certain times in its history, it was the capital of an autonomous kingdom."

Although many people think Mayan culture was restricted to what is now Mexico, the grand kingdoms of the first millennium spread throughout what is now Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras.

Xunantunich just became a tourist attraction in the early 1990s as excavations progressed and tourism infrastructure was added. Today it draws about 46,000 visitors a year.

I found the special beauty of Xunantunich was compounded by its setting in Belize's western Cayo District.

This region of rolling hills and rivers looks a lot like Pennsylvania, except with monkeys. It seemed somehow familiar. Relaxing. Some researchers believe Xunantunich was more of a royal ritual getaway, like a country place to escape the nasty politics back in the city. I can see that. I could live here.

From the top of El Castillo, one can kick back and look out at gorgeous vistas for 360 degrees. Problems? What problems?

Of course, the site and region do have reminders of the sometimes cruel world of the Maya. There's a ball court, where the loser of the games faced sudden death - literally. Not far from Xunantunich is a mysterious cave that was important for Mayan ritual and human sacrifice.

It is worth spending extra time in the region to see not only Xunantunich and other ruins, but also Actun Tunichil Muknal (in English, Cave of the Crystal Sepulchre), thought by the ancient Maya to be an entrance to the underworld. The cave was rediscovered in 1989.

"It's an all-day adventure tourism trip," Yaeger says. "You hike through jungle and swim a river to get to a cave, then walk through an underground stream for a quarter-mile, then climb into a giant chamber where the Maya left offerings. Sacrificial victims, food offerings, skulls, they are still there on the altars, left where the Maya placed them," he says.

"And you see a small niche where a woman was sacrificed 1200 years ago, and there are (sparkling calcite) crystals all over her bones."

After that, a climb to the top of Xunantunich's El Castillo will seem simple.

IF YOU GO

GETTING THERE: By cruise-ship shore excursion: In Belize, you can take a day trip from cruise ships docked in Belize City to the Mayan ruins of Xunantunich, Altun Ha or Lamanai, although not to Caracol, as it is too far. In Mexico, you can visit Chichen Itza and Uxmal if your ship docks in Progreso. You can visit Tulum from Cozumel port.

PLAYING THERE: By escorted tour: One example is an eight-day Belize Archaeology and Tikal, which gets you to Xunantunich, Caracol and other Mayan sites. See themayantraveler.com.

Source


An Afternoon At Xunantunich
Xunantunich is my favourite Mayan ruin and it is not because it is one of the most popular archeological sites in Belize or because it is very near to my hometown of San Ignacio. It is because it brings good memories: memories of lonely hikes on Sundays, memories of me taking friends there, memories of how peaceful it is to be on top of El Castillo during early mornings or late afternoons. When I was in Belize in January it was an obligatory trip. It is free for Belizeans to visit on Sundays so of course I did the trip on a lazy Sunday afternoon. Xunantunich is located in San Jose Succotz, one of the villages that neighbours Guatemala and is a 15 minute drive from San Ignacio. The site is not big and it took me a little over an hour to leisurely see it all. It can be done without a tour guide but it’s recommended to hire a guide if you want to hear in-dept facts about its fascinating history.

Posted By: Marty

Re: Xunantunich Maya Site - 06/07/14 11:35 AM

Health and Safety Standards For Xunantunich


A ceremony highlighting the signing of health and safety standards at the Xunantunich Archaeological Site in the Cayo District took place on the grounds of the Mayan ruin on Thursday. The document outlining the health and safety standards to be adopted and implemented by the Institute of Archaeology was drafted as part of the project dubbed, Making Tourism Benefit Communities Adjacent to Archaeological Sites. According the George Thompson, the Associate Director of Parks Management, the adaptation of these health and safety regulations seeks to improve the tourism experience in Belize.

GEORGE THOMPSON, Associate Director, Parks Management

“Today marks a special day as we take one more significant step in improving the quality of service at our archaeological and tourism destinations. It brings me great pleasure to see us taking significant steps towards our mission which first and foremost is protection and preservation. It is only by ensuring that these communities feel that they are a part of what we’re doing and what we’re managing that they will ultimately have the buy-in that is necessary to move protection and preservation to another level. Today we seek not only to have exceptionally beautiful well managed archaeological parks, as is evident here at Xunantunich; it is really a beautiful environment. What we are seeking to do is to move to another level where we seek to manage visitor experience. The people who come to our parks, it is to see a beautiful environment, beautiful excavations, well documented archaeological site, proper research taking place but at the same time to move to another level where we manage our experience . From this point onward as was rightly mentioned, the Institute of Archaeology will be the key organization that will move forward in the implementation of these standards whether it is in the areas of trail ramps, sanitary facilities, emergency preparedness and boats or our gas for in times of natural disasters; those are the things that we will be charged with. As was mentioned, we have 90 rangers; we need to improve the capacity of our staff to implement these standards and also the capacity of the staff to ensure that we provide the proper oversight when it comes to dealing with and adopting these standards. We look forward to more collaboration with our industry partners. These standards are by no means written in stone and it will take the necessary periodic monitoring and evaluation of these standards to see what is working, to see where adjustments can be made and it is through this evaluation that we will ultimately seek to improve our tourism destination and by extension, all the other things will fall in place, whether it’s for the national economy for our country, the tourism industry, adjacent communities and we look forward to ensuring that we at the Institute of Archaeology, the National Institute of Culture and History remain at the forefront of the continued development of our archaeological and cultural sites.”

The project is being carried as a component of the Belize Rural Development Programme II and is being funded by the European Union and the Government of Belize.

LOVEFM

Posted By: Marty

Re: Xunantunich Maya Site - 07/06/14 10:24 PM

A Mayan marvel in Belize’s jungle

The archaeological site of Xunantunich rivals some of the better-known Mayan ruins in Mexico and Guatemala.

It’s not as famous as Mexico’s Chichen Itza. It’s not as tall as Guatemala’s Tikal.

But here in western Belize, the Xunantunich Mayan ruins will make your jaw drop.

And maybe your palms sweat.

Pronounced shoe-NAN-to-nitch (or as some tourists mangle it, Tuna Sandwich) its name means “stone maiden.” The dominant structure, El Castillo, is notable not only for its elegant friezes of hieroglyphs depicting rulers and gods, but for the fact that visitors can still climb to the top of the 130-foot temple, if they dare.

Unlike at Mexico’s Chichen Itza, which was closed to climbers in 2006 after a woman fell to her death, Xunantunich’s climb is done in bits and pieces, with plenty of flat places to stop — and even a handrail staircase for the final descent.

Still, it’s not for everyone.

“I’m afraid of heights,” one tour guide confessed as he stood in the shade on a plaza halfway up, watching the rest of his group ascend to the very top. “The view is still good from here.”

Reached independently by car or as a day-trip excursion for cruise ships docked in Belize City, Xunantunich is one of Belize’s top attractions, although many Americans have never heard of it.

The entrance near the village of San José Succotz is surrounded by small shopping kiosks selling crafts and textiles. From there, every person, vehicle and animal must cross the Mopan River on a hand-cranked ferry to enter the park.

Then it is a 1-mile uphill trudge to the visitors plaza (or a swift ride in a minibus, welcome in this humid climate where the average temperature is 88 degrees.)

From there, you walk a bit farther, past a gift shop, a new visitors center that opened in March, groves of allspice trees, then onto a grass-covered plaza and the striking sight of El Castillo.

In Xunantunich’s heyday, roughly 600 to 900 AD, “the walls would have been whitewashed plaster and almost certainly painted,” says Jason Yaeger, a University of Texas at San Antonio professor of anthropology, who has spent every summer for 23 years in and around Xunantunich. The site spreads out with 26 structures and multiple plazas, many still uncovered.

In terms of importance, “It is a middle-sized site, not as big as (Guatemala’s) Tikal certainly, but at certain times in its history, it was the capital of an autonomous kingdom,” said Yaeger.

Although many people think Mayan culture was restricted to what is now Mexico, the grand kingdoms of the first millennium spread throughout what is now Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras.

Xunantunich just became a tourist attraction in the early 1990s as excavations progressed and tourism infrastructure was added. Today it draws about 46,000 visitors a year.

Beautiful as the area is, the site and region do have reminders of the sometimes cruel world of the Maya. There’s a ball court, where the loser of the games faced sudden death — literally. Not far from Xunantunich is a mysterious cave that was important for Mayan ritual and human sacrifice.

For Yaeger, it is worth spending extra time in the region to see not only Xunantunich and other ruins, but also Actun Tunichil Muknal (in English, Cave of the Crystal Sepulchre), thought by the ancient Maya to be an entrance to the underworld. The cave was rediscovered in 1989.

“It’s an all-day adventure tourism trip,” he says. “You hike through jungle and swim a river to get to a cave, then walk through an underground stream for a quarter-mile, then climb into a giant chamber where the Maya left offerings. Sacrificial victims, food offerings, skulls, they are still there on the altars, left where the Maya placed them.

“And you see a small niche where a woman was sacrificed 1,200 years ago, and there are (sparkling calcite) crystals all over her bones,” Yaeger said.

After that, a climb to the top of Xunantunich’s El Castillo will seem simple.

SOURCE


The Shrine at Xunantunich

Some of the most fabulous and mind blowing cathedrals can be found and all over the modern world. Some of the oldest are found in Europe – the old continent. Within these amazing places for the believers, an electric connection with the universe exists; electricity that their souls demand and command, and they receive it each and every time. This has been the case in time immemorial. Every ancient culture has created some type of physical space to access the powerful energy that exists in the universe. The ancient Maya were not different. They too created spaces for incredible celebrations and spiritual journeys in the form of temples.

There are a few kingdoms that went a tad more than the extra mile in the creation of such spaces. They could be large and small, such as in the case of Tikal and Xunantunich. The elite at these places created shrines other than temples to celebrate their ancestors, time and to unite their science with their spirituality. The elite or King at Xunantunich created one of these shrines at the base of an Eastern temple.


The spiritual space was small with two rooms. The room to the back that was against the temple hosted a stela in its center, splitting the small (2.5 feet wide) rooms length in half. The front half, which is separated by a wall, hosts an altar in the center, which too splits this room in half. The four smaller rooms created were more than likely the spaces of the grotesque blood letting ceremonies – perhaps not human sacrifice – but certainly blood sacrifice.

While it is great theatre to discuss the violent nature of human sacrifice, what may have happened in these small, private spaces, will turn your stomach too. As has been seen of ancient Maya art on walls and on paper, stelae and ceramic pieces, men of royal rank used a sting ray spine to pierce the foreskin of their penis and they dripped the blood on paper and then they would burn the paper in an offering to their ancestors and gods. The women were not exempt. Art has shown that women would pull a string of thorns through their tongues and drip their blood over paper then too, burn the paper and offer their blood sacrifice to the gods.


Its an incredible story but today one of the worlds most powerful religious denominations zealously reminds its followers of the blood letting their God did on behalf of all people. It is strikingly incredible what cultures have shared, independently of each other, across the globe, things with powerful and passionate intentions always on behalf of continuous life and success in crop growth, rain or warfare. The power has always been in blood.

NINE Eco-Tours

Posted By: Marty

Re: Xunantunich Maya Site - 09/07/14 11:13 AM

Xunantunich Mayan Temples in Belize


Xunantunich Belize, GoPro Hero 4

Posted By: denjy

Re: Xunantunich Maya Site - 09/07/14 12:47 PM

I love the comment at 28:30..."just think of it as mountain climbing without all the harnesses". Well that's reassuring! Nice video.
Posted By: Marty

Re: Xunantunich Maya Site - 07/01/15 11:07 AM

Xunantunich Upgrade

Xunantunich is going to get an 'upgrade' over the next 4 years. The announcement, which coincides perfectly with this year's BAAS, happening now at the SIRH, makes it seem like the site will be expanded to include more of the plazas, and possibly a new one. Everyone loves Xunantunich!

It's confirmed by Doc Awe that the site core of Xunantunich will completely changed in the next 4 four years. YES! In the next four years work will be done on structures A7, A8, A17, A9, B group, the sunken plaza behind El Castillo, also in C group and D group not even on this map.

He also does not expect 13 tombs to be found in A3 building Xunantunich site core that is currently being excavated... Says people of Xunantunich we're not as wealthy as those of Cahal Pech where 13 tombs have been found over the years on B1 building.



Posted By: Marty

Re: Xunantunich Maya Site - 10/30/15 07:27 PM


Xunantunich Stairway Upgrade

The Institute of Archaeology has upgraded the stairway to Xunantunich. Looks great!

They also stopped by Howard Smith Nazarene primary school to teach the students about the Popul Vuh.

"In our efforts to improve access and safety at our archaeological reserves, the IA completed a new and improved access stairway to the main plaza at Xunantunich. Visit the site today and remember that it is also free for Belizean residents on Sunday!"

Click photos for more pictures!


Xunantunich Maya Ruins in Belize

Only a small portion of the buildings were excavated. There are countless mounds that are additional ruins.

Posted By: Marty

Re: Xunantunich Maya Site - 06/06/16 10:31 AM

Excellent article about Xunantunich from Taste of Life magazine.

Exploring The Mystery Of The Maya

Within the rainforests of Western Belize, the legacy of ancient Maya lives on as archaeologists unearth sacred temples and artistic traditions that provide a window into the mystery of a culture that excelled in agriculture, mathematics, hieroglyphics and impressive architecture.


Mayan for “Stone Maiden,” Xunantunich, was an important royal ceremonial centre built around 600 AD. Its plazas once painted in vivid colours are surrounded by temples and palaces — the largest being, El Castillo.

A symphony of howler monkeys, parakeets and toucans announce a new day at the foothills of the ancient mountains of Belize. An alarm clock is a trivial possession here in the Cayo District, where creatures great and small sing homage to Kinich Ahau, the Mayan sun god, as the first golden rays slice through the dense jungle.

Through morning mist, there’s a glimpse of El Castillo, the castle-like pyramid atop a distant limestone ridge. The mystery of the ancient Mayan site, Xunantunich (pronounced shoo-nahn-too-nitch), which surrounds the pyramid, enticed us to trek here, where the Mayan Empire was at the height of its power 2,000 years ago.


In the period between 300 and 900 A.D., the Maya built hundreds of enormous cities and sacred sites deep in the tropical lowlands of Belize, in northern Central America. While speculation exists, no one knows for sure what caused the Maya to mysteriously abandon their colossal temples, leaving them to be swallowed up by the encroaching jungle until they became the lost cities of legend.

The ancient ceremonial centre Xunantunich was discovered by a hunter in 1881, and as excavation continues today, altars, artefacts and stone friezes are being unearthed alongside a fragmented story of humanity’s past. “For every relic unearthed, there’s a thousand questions, and for every question answered there’s a hundred more questions,” says William, our tour guide — a local rancher and horse handler who grew up exploring the ancient caves around the nearby village of San Jose Succotz. “So much mystery shrouds the Maya. How could they build pyramids without iron tools, wheels or animal power?”


The road leading to this ancient site weaves along the Mopan River, through a jungle canopy of fragrant allspice and gumbo-limbo trees. While the idea of riding horseback through the rainforest gets some pushback from our teenage sons, as we cross the river on a small platform propelled by a hand-cranked pulley, their hesitation transforms to wonder as we enter Mayan territory.

Far richer, fascinating and more exciting than anything Hollywood could dream up, the actual reality of Mayan life is amazing. This was once the capital of an autonomous ancient kingdom — spreading out with 26 stone structures and multiple plazas, many yet to be uncovered. Nearly 200,000 Maya once lived beneath the shadows of the pyramid, with its giant stone steps ascending to a summit 40 metres above the jungle floor. Its assembly of stone rooms and vaulted buildings suggests it was once a royal palace or residence of an elite family closely related to the rulers. Like an emperor surveying his kingdom, the view is astounding — stretching across the horizon from the lush forest greens and farms around San Ignacio to Guatemala.


It’s remarkable to think that where we now stand once served as a sacred space to honour the gods — echoed by the intricate stone friezes and masks that adorn the east and west of the pyramid. Various motifs and symbols of Mayan astronomy and cosmology are etched in limestone, including Chaac, the god of rain, and Ix Chel, the moon goddess.

This ancient royal retreat is complete with a ball court, although from hieroglyphics discovered on neighboring Mayan sites, the game known as pok-ta-pok took an intense twist with the sacrificial death of the winner — the perfect gift to win favour from the gods. Next to the excavated sports court is a lonely sapodilla tree — its chicle sap used to make rubber balls for this game, and in generations to follow, dental floss and chewing gum.


This real, in-your-face Mayan history has ignited our curiosity! Perhaps we’ll continue onto Altun Ha, north of Belize City, where an exquisite piece of ancient Mayan art, the Jade Head, was discovered in a large tomb, or onto Ambergris Caye and the 2,000-year-old Marco Gonzalez archaeology site in the early days of discovery.

As we ride back to the stables, our minds are opened to life’s deeper meaning. A legacy seems more than what’s left when we’re gone, but what we can each give, create, impact and contribute today while we’re here. Taking the rough road often leads to the height of greatness.

Taste of Life

Posted By: Marty

Re: Xunantunich Maya Site - 06/13/16 11:12 AM


Euan MacKie Presentation on 1960's Xunantunich Excavations

Professor Euan MacKie gave a presentation at CET about the Xunantunich Excavations in the 1960's.

Euan MacKie Phd was at the C.E.T. to deliver a presentation for the tour guides. All tours guides of all associations were welcome to attend, it was on June 8.

Euan Wallace MacKie is a British archaeologist and anthropologist. He is a prominent figure in the field of Archaeoastronomy. He was educated at Whitgift School, Croydon between 1946 and 1954 and later graduated with a degree in Archeology & Anthropology from St. John's College at the University of Cambridge in 1959. He spent six months in Central America as member of the Cambridge Expedition to British Honduras excavating Mayan archaeological sites in Belize between 1959 and 1960 at the ceremonial centre of Xunantunich. He is also known for his work and publications 'Excavations at Xunantunich and Pomona, Belize, in 1959-1960: A ceremonial centre and an earthen mound of the Maya Classic period,' Science and Society in Prehistoric Britain, 'Megalith Builders.'"



Road to Xunantunich

Posted By: Marty

Re: Xunantunich Maya Site - 06/15/16 10:49 AM

The Magnificent Stela At Xunantunich







The Panel at Xunantunich

The early explorers, adventurers and archeologist believed that the ancient Maya were quiet people that lived in the forests, in harmony with their surroundings. Slowly, over time, they realized that these ancient people were actually people. They slashed and burned jungles to plant their corn. They hunted and domesticated wild animals like the wild turkey, great curassow and collared picary to be used as meat. They mined large open quarries and burned limestone for lime production so that they could later make mortar and plaster. Another trait they had was that they waged wars with each other.

Here is one such story. In 562 A. D., Yajaw Te’ K’inich II, ruler of the site of Caracol launched an attack to Tikal, a large Maya site in the country of Guatemala. The attack was successful, with the help of another site, Calakmul in Mexico. Tikal went into a hiatus and Caracol remained dominant in that area. Lord Knot Ajaw succeeded his father, and shortly after, he was succeeded by his younger brother Kan II. Lord Kan II is known to have done great things during his reign. He brought much prosperity and the population increased. Roads and causeways were built during this time. Sixty four years after they invaded the site of Tikal, Lord Kan II waged war with the site of Naranjo, not too far from Tikal, in fact, a perfect stricking distance away. Caracol defeated Naranjo in 626 A. D., and Naranjo was defeated by Calakmul again in 631 A. D. After the death of Kan II, K’ahk’ Ujol K’inich II became ruler of Caracol and in 680 A. D., Caracol was invaded and overtaken by the site of Naranjo. Caracol then went into its 96 year hiatus. Despite this, Caracol still showed some growth and prosperity during this time.




When Naranjo invated Caracol, they could not find the ruler. He was not present. So, they saw the carved stairway and decided to take it as a monument of conquest. Well, we know now, that was not all that they took. About a week ago, a panel was found while digging on A9 temple building at the site of Xunantunich. The panel may have been originally at Caracol. Archaeologist are telling us that the glyphs mention the death of Lady Batz Ek, who is the Mother of Lord Kan II and this panel was very likely commissioned by him. It is believed that the panel was cut into several pieces and given away by Naranjo to its subordinate sites as gifts of that conquest. This included Xunantunich, which has forever shown alliance with Naranjo. Much more was found in front of the A9 structure. The panel was backfilled immediately, after everyone had viewed it, but plans are to make a replica that will be placed in the original location, and the original panel will be moved into the Visitor Center.

There is a broken stelae laying on its face on the ground, directly in front of that structure A9. In front of the stelae, a cache deposit was found, with mainly some eccentric flints that appeared to be made from chert. A few pottery shards, something a little more fancy, were also found behind the stelae. Just below the plaza floor below the first stairs another cache deposit but this time is had nine eccentric objects made from obsidian along with a pomes stone jadeite pieces and clam shells. There are much more digs that are happening all over the site and I will keep you in tuned with the latest and greatest.







Cayo Tour Guide Association

Posted By: Marty

Re: Xunantunich Maya Site - 07/13/16 11:25 AM


Another Mayan artifact unearthed

Confirmed! another section of the panel at Xunantunich was found on the Right side of Structure A9

Posted By: Marty

Re: Xunantunich Maya Site - 07/20/16 05:28 PM

Newly discovered panel at Xunantunich

A week ago we told you that a second section of the panel at Xunantunich was discovered on the right side of Structure A9 here are some recent images that tour guide Eddy Estrada took of it now that it has been all cleaned up.




Posted By: Marty

Re: Xunantunich Maya Site - 07/21/16 11:15 AM

Tomb Uncovered At Xunantunich


Posted By: Marty

Re: Xunantunich Maya Site - 07/22/16 11:05 AM


Une tombe maya découverte à Xunantunich au Belize

Une équipe d’archéologues de l’université d’Arizona a récemment annoncé la découverte d’une tombe maya à Xunantunich au Belize. Sis sur les rives du Río Mopan, Xunantunich est célèbre pour sa structure nommée Castillo, la plus élevée du site et pour son art lapidaire.


Maya 'snake dynasty tomb' discovered, with human body, treasure and hieroglyphs inside

Archaeologists have discovered a royal tomb belonging to a ‘snake dynasty’ more than a thousand years old, containing treasure, hieroglyphs and a human body.

The discovery was unearthed at the ruins of Xunantunich, an ancient city which was once home to the Mayan civilisation beginning around 750 BC until political collapse saw cities abandoned in ninth century AD. The Maya peoples developed the Mesoamerican civilisation and were renowned for their fully develope hieroglyphic script, as well as ornate architecture.

It is thought that the tomb may be the largest of its kind to be found in the ruins. Most strikingly, it appears the tomb is custom-built, rather than attached to an existing structure, a rarity for the period.

Archaeologist Jamie Awe told The Guardian: “It appears that the temple was purposely erected for the primary purpose of enclosing the tomb. Except for a very few rare cases, this is not very typical in ancient Maya architecture.”

The tomb was found in the central stairway of a large structure.

The human body has been described by Awe as athletic and “quite muscular”. It will now be subject to forensic analysis as experts seek to establish more information including the man’s age and cause of death.

The archaeologists also found 36 ceramic vessels, what appears to be a necklace with jade beads, 13 obsidian blades and the bones of deer and jaguar,International Business Times reports.

The ‘snake dynasty’ is known for the snake-head emblem associated with its house and gained prominence in the seventh century following a string of conquests.

It is hoped the discovery will advance greater understanding of the dynasty and Mayan civilisation.


NAU Archaeologist Jaime Awe Describes ‘Unbelievable’ Find in Belize

Archeologists made a major discovery in Belize this summer: they uncovered one of the largest Mayan tombs ever found, along with two hieroglyphic panels. Northern Arizona University professor Jaime Awe led the expedition. From the Arizona Science Desk, Melissa Sevigny spoke with Awe about the discovery.

Melissa Sevigny: So you made some big findings in Belize this summer. Can you talk about that? 

There’s a site in Western Belize known as Xunantunich. That site has been investigated since the turn of the 19th century, so back in 1890s. Just a large number of people have worked there. Nobody had ever found a burial of an important elite ruler of the site.

This year we decided to excavate this one smaller temple, and bingo, we hit this huge tomb, in fact one of the largest tombs ever discovered in the country of Belize.

This thing was so massive we had about six people excavating inside this burial chamber at the same time. We had people excavating the skeletal remains, we had some people excavating the animal remains in there, because there was some of that, and other people exposing some of the artifacts.

What kind of artifacts did you find?

Inside this tomb we found this adult male individual somewhere between 20 and 30 years old and really robust; this guy was in really good shape.

He had about 30 some ceramic vessels—that’s a large number of pots—inside this tomb. He had a little jade necklace, obsidian blades, a bone pin—because sometimes they use these pins to hold up their long hair—and the animal remains look like they’re from jaguar and deer. 

Now, I understand you also found two panels at the site that used to be part of a hieroglyphic staircase. And these panels have told you a lot about Mayan history.

I think in many respects the information provided by these panels far outweighed the discovery we made in the tomb. So for a long time we didn’t know when the hieroglyphic stair had been commissioned. We knew who and where. Well, our panels now tell us that the hieroglyphic stair was actually commissioned and produced in 642 AD.

So, if you’re in the business about learning about ancient Maya civilization and some of the political intrigue, the discovery of these panels is just an incredible major contribution. Fantastic!  

How common are tombs and tablets like this? How often are these types of discoveries made?

I have colleagues who have been working in Maya archeology for entire careers and have never found any monuments with hieroglyphic inscriptions or have ever discovered any kind of important tombs. So to say this is an unbelievable opportunity, experience, is an understatement.

Jaime Awe directs the Belize Valley Archaeological Reconnaissance Project. This is the second year he’s brought NAU students to Belize; so far, more than 40 students have gone on the digs.

KNAU

Posted By: Marty

Re: Xunantunich Maya Site - 04/08/17 09:15 PM


Drone Video of Xunantunich Maya Site in Belize

This is a video of Xunatunich just outside of San Ignacio Town.

Posted By: Marty

Re: Xunantunich Maya Site - 06/09/17 08:40 PM

Repairs on the ferry at the Xunantunich Archaeological Reserve are nearing completion. All this is being done to ensure the safety of our visitors to the site, making it easier on vehicular traffic across the Mopan River.

[Linked Image]

[Linked Image]

[Linked Image]

[Linked Image]
Posted By: Marty

Re: Xunantunich Maya Site - 06/14/17 07:33 PM

The public is informed that repairs to the Xunantunich Archaeological Site’s Ferry have been completed and is now operating as normal.

[Linked Image]
Posted By: Marty

Re: Xunantunich Maya Site - 08/15/17 12:27 PM


Archaeologists Have Uncovered One of The Biggest Maya Tombs Ever

An international team of archaeologists working in Belize has uncovered one of the biggest royal Maya tombs ever, containing a male corpse, animal bones, obsidian blades, and hieroglyphic panels that offer new insights into the legendary 'snake dynasty'.

The team uncovered the tomb in Xunantunich, an ancient city in Western Belize that once served as a ceremonial centre for the Maya, under the stairway of a temple.

"In other words, it appears that the temple was purposely erected for the primary purpose of enclosing the tomb," team leader Jaime Awe from Northern Arizona University told Alan Yuhas from The Guardian. "Except for a very few rare cases, this is not very typical in ancient Maya architecture."

According to the team, the tomb was built for a 20- to 30-year-old muscular man, who must have been of some importance, though they're still trying to figure out more information about his life.

Alongside his remains, the researchers found the bones of a jaguar and a deer, jade beads that might have been a necklace, 13 obsidian blades, and 36 ceramic vessels. In another area of the tomb, they also found two 'offering caches' that contained nine obsidian blades and 28 flint figurines that were carved into various symbols and animals, Yuhas reports.

While finding a tomb is always exciting for archaeologists, this one is particularly special, because it's one of the biggest Maya tombs ever found in Belize, measuring in at 4.5 metres (14.7 feet) by 2.4 metres (7.9 feet).

"What’s amazing about the discovery of this tomb is that we know that archaeologists have been working at Xunantunich since the 1890s," Awe told Julia Arzu from The Reporter.

"That’s more than a century of continuous archaeological work at the site. And, never before have we found a tomb. Well, this tomb is also remarkable in other ways, it is one of the largest burial chambers we have ever found."

The most important find inside the tomb could be the inscribed panels featuring hieroglyphics related to the so-called snake dynasty – a family that ruled the Maya empire some 1,300-years-ago, and used a snake-head emblem as their symbol.

The team’s epigrapher, Christophe Helmke from the University of Copenhagen in Denmark, says these panels tell of the conquests of Lord K'an II – the ruler of the ancient city of Caracol, which was located roughly 41 kilometres (26 miles) south of the tomb.

But, oddly enough, the hieroglyphics might also reveal another king from the snake dynasty named Waxaklajuun Ubaah K'an, who likely ruled sometime around 635 AD. The team says this find suggests that there could have been two kings – possibly brothers – vying for the throne.

"This means that there were two contenders to the throne, both carrying the same dynastic title, which appears to have been read Kanu’l Ajaw, 'King of the place where snakes abound'," Helmke told The Guardian.

With the help of these panels, the researchers hopes to glean more information about the snake dynasty, and by piecing together the royal family's history, they might also shed new light on the fall of the entire Maya civilisation.

The team’s findings have been published in the Journal of the Pre-Columbian Art Research Institute.

ScienceAlert.com

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