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Belize Maya Sites

Altun Ha

is the name given ruins of an ancient Maya city in Belize, located in the Belize District about 30 miles (50 km) north of Belize City and about 6 miles (10 km) west of the shore of the Caribbean Sea.

"Altun Ha" is a modern name in the Maya language, coined by translating the name of the nearby village of Rockstone Pond in Yucatec Maya. The name actually means stone water in Mayan.

Temple of the Masonry Altars

The largest of Altun Ha's temple-pyramids, the "Temple of the Masonry Altars", is 54 feet (16 m) high. A drawing of this structure is the logo of Belize's leading brand of beer, "Belikin".

The site covers an area of about 5 miles (8 km) square. The central square mile of the site has remains of some 500 structures.

Archaeological investigations show that Altun Ha was occupied by 200 BC. The bulk of construction was from the Maya Classic era, c. 200 to 900 AD, when the site may have had a population of about 10,000 people. About 900 AD there was some looting of elite tombs of the site, which some think is suggestive of a revolt against the site's rulers. The site remained populated for about another century after that, but with no new major ceremonial or elite architecture built during that time. After this the population dwindled, with a moderate surge of reoccupation in the 12th century before declining again to a small agricultural village.

The ruins of the ancient structures had their stones reused for residential construction of the agricultural village of Rockstone Pond in modern times, but the ancient site did not come to the attention of archaeologists until 1963, when the existence of a sizable ancient site was recognized from the air by pilot and amateur Mayanist Hal Ball.

Starting in 1965 an archaeological team led by Dr. David Pendergast of the Royal Ontario Museum began extensive excavations and restorations of the site, which continued through 1970. Among the discoveries is a large (almost 10 pounds, or 5 kilograms) piece of jade elaborately carved into an image of the head of the Maya sun god, Kinich Ahau. This jade head is considered one of the national treasures of Belize.

The Old Northern Highway connects Altun Ha to Belize's Northern Highway, and the site is accessible for tourism.

Cahal Pech

is a Maya site located near the Town of San Ignacio in the Cayo District of Belize. The site was a hilltop palacio home for an elite Maya family, and though most major construction dates to the Classic period, evidence of continuous habitation has been dated to as far back as far as 1200 BCE during the Early Middle Formative period (Early Middle Preclassic), making Cahal Pech one of the oldest recognizably Maya sites in Western Belize.[1][2]. The site rests high near the banks of the Macal River and is strategically located to overlook the confluence of the Macal River and the Mopan River. The site is a collection of 34 structures, with the tallest temple being about 25 meters in height, situated around a central acropolis. The site was abandoned in the 9th century CE for unknown reasons.

The name Cahal Pech, meaning "Place of the Ticks", was given when this site was fallow during the first archaeological studies in the 1950s, led by Linton Satterthwaite from the University of Pennsylvania Museum. It is now an archaeological reserve, and houses a small museum with artifacts from various ongoing excavations.

The primary excavation of the site began in 1988. Restoration was completed in 2000 under the leadership of Dr. Jaime Awe, Director of the National Institute of Archaeology (NICH), Belize.

Caracol or El Caracol

is the name given to a large ancient Maya archaeological site, located in what is now the Cayo District of Belize. It is situated approximately 40 kilometers south of Xunantunich and the town of San Ignacio Cayo, at an elevation of 460 meters above sea-level, in the foothills of the Maya Mountains. The site was the most important political center of Lowland Maya during the Classic Period within Belize. In 650 CE, the urban area of Caracol had a radius of approximately 10 kilometers around the site's epicenter. It covered an area much larger than present-day Belize City (the largest Discovery).

The site was first reported by a native logger named Rosa Mai, who came across its remains in 1937 while searching for mahogany hardwood trees to exploit. Mai later reported the site to the archaeological commission for British Honduras, as the British colony was known at the time. In 1938 the archaeological commissioner, A. H. Anderson, visited the site along with a colleague H. B. Jex, spending two weeks in preliminary surveys and noting a number of carved monuments, stelae and Maya inscriptions. It was Anderson who gave the site its name —from the Spanish: caracol "snail, shell", but more generally meaning spiral- or volute-shaped— apparently on account of the winding access road that led to the site.

Cerros

is a Maya archaeological site in northern Belize that reached its apogee during the Mesoamerican Late Preclassic. At its nadir, it held a population of approximately 1,089 people[1]. The site is strategically located on a peninsula at the mouth of the New River where it empties into Chetumal Bay on the Caribbean coast. As such, the site had access to and served as an intermediary link between the coastal trade route that circumnavigated the Yucatán Peninsula and inland communities. The inhabitants of Cerros constructed an extensive canal system and utilized raised-field agriculture

El Pilar

is an ancient Maya city center located on the Belize-Guatemala border. It can be accessed from the Cayo District in Belize, 12 miles (19 km) north-west of the town of San Ignacio, or from the department of El Petén in Guatemala, 30 kilometers (19 mi) north of Melchor de Mencos.

The El Pilar Archaeological Reserve for Maya Flora and Fauna, was declared a cultural monument both in Guatemala and Belize, and covers 5,000 acres (2,000 ha), half of which lies in each country. It is jointly managed by the Belize Institute of Archeology (IoA) and Guatemala's Instituto de Antropología e Historia (IDAEH). El Pilar is the largest site in the Belize River area with over 25 plazas, hundreds of other buildings, covering about 50 hectares (120 acres).

Based on ceramic analyzes, it is known that monumental constructions at El Pilar began in the Middle Preclassic around 800 BCE. By 250 BCE there were major public works and extensive occupation in the El Pilar area. At its height, El Pilar housed more than 20,000 people. Monumental construction continued with the last major remodeling in the Terminal Classic (1000 CE), after which the monuments were neglected. The name “El Pilar” is Spanish for “watering basin,” reflecting the abundance of water in the area, which is rare for the Maya world.

A major archaeological excavation project has been carried out since 1993. However, for conservation purposes most monuments are not exposed. The objective is to selectively and partially expose strategic areas. Today one can see door jambs, walls, and rooms along the wooded trails. This is a style of presentation known as "Archaeology Under the Canopy" that leaves the monuments protected by forest foliage. The only fully exposed monument at the reserve is a house site called Tzunu’un, bringing attention to El Pilar’s unique focus on Maya houses and life ways. El Pilar also features a Maya forest garden to demonstrate traditional agricultural practices.

El Pilar has been under threat by looters and was placed on the World Monument Fund's 1996 list of 100 Most Endangered Sites in the World.

The reserve is open to the public and has a series of trails providing access throughout the site. There is an active initiative to make El Pilar of Belize and Guatemala the first archaeological peace park in the world.

Lamanai

(from Lama'anayin, "submerged crocodile" in Yucatec Maya) is a Mesoamerican archaeological site, and was once a considerably sized city of the Maya civilization, located in the north of Belize, in Orange Walk District. The site's name is pre-Columbian, recorded by early Spanish missionaries, and documented over a millennium earlier in Maya inscriptions as Lam'an'ain

Lubaantun

(also Lubaantún or Lubaantán in Spanish orthography) is a pre-Columbian ruined city of the Maya civilization in southern Belize, Central America. Lubaantun is in Belize's Toledo District, about 42 kilometres (26 mi) northwest of Punta Gorda, and approximately 3.2 kilometres (2 mi) from the village of San Pedro Columbia, at an elevation of 61 meters (200 ft) feet above mean sea level. One of the most distinguishing features of Lubaantun is the large collection of miniature ceramic objects found on site; these detailed constructs are thought to have been charmstones or ritual accompanying accouterments.

Santa Rita Corozal

is a Maya ruin and an archaeological reserve on the outskirts of Corozal, Belize. Historical evidence suggests that it was probably the ancient and important Maya city known as Chetumal.

Uxbenka

(or Uxbenká in Spanish orthography) is a pre-Columbian Mesoamerican archaeological site located in Belize's southernmost district of Toledo. An urban settlement of the pre-Columbian Maya, it is the earliest-known Maya polity in the southern Belizean lowlands, with evidence of occupation dating to the Early Classic period of Mesoamerican chronology (ca. 250–500 CE). It is one of five major Maya sites in this region, which archaeological sites also include Nim Li Punit and Lubaantun. Settlement of Uxbenka has been suggested to have occurred originally by Peten peoples.

Xnaheb is an archaeological site of the pre-Columbian Maya civilization, one of five primary sites identified in the southern Belize region. The center is built on a ridge of foothills that extends from the Maya Mountains, in what is now the Toledo District of Belize. Based on certain architectural similarities between the two sites, it is possible that Xnaheb was originally founded as an offshoot of Nim Li Punit.

Xunantunich

(pronounced /ʃunantunit͡ʃ/) is a Maya archaeological site in western Belize, about 80 miles (130 km) west of Belize City (Latitude : 17.083 , Longitude : -89.133), in the Cayo District. Xunantunich is located atop a ridge above the Mopan River, within sight of the Guatemala border. Its name means "Stone Woman" in the Maya language (Mopan and Yucatec combination name), and, like many names given to Maya archaeological sites, is a modern name; the ancient name is currently unknown. The "Stone Woman" refers to the ghost of a woman claimed by several people to inhabit the site, beginning in 1892. She is dressed completely in white, and has fire-red glowing eyes. She generally appears in front of "El Castillo", ascends the stone stairs, and disappears into a stone wall.


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