Xunantunich Mayan Ruins



Xunantunich 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.

You'll find carved stelae and one very tall main pyramid here. To reach the ruins, you must cross the Mopan River aboard a tiny hand-cranked car-ferry in the village of San Josť Succotz. Situated in tropical rainforest the Temples of Xunantunich are West of Belize City close to the Guatemalan border in the beautiful Cayo District.

Xunantunich is an easily accessible excursion, the Temples sit on top of a mountain in Cayo, the van will take you to the front steps of the Ruins where the incline is minimal.

Situated just two miles from the Guatemala border, this site was a major ceremonial center during the Classic Period composed of six major plazas and surrounded by more than 25 temples and palaces. Sitting atop a natural limestone ridge, the site provides panoramic views of the hilly Cayo District.

The religion of the citizens of Xunantunich helped build this city up to the ceremonial center that it became. To understand it is to understand in at least some way the people of this once great city. It is believed that the temples and stelae focus on fertility and the warlords.

The recent history of Xunantunich began in the late 1800's, when it was explored by a British medical officer named Thomas Gann. The first known photograph of the site was taken in 1904 and displayed in the Peabody Museum of Archaeology, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, for many years.

Today there is a very nice Visitor's Center which includes a scale model of the site which gives visitors a nice overview of the ruins. Located in the Cayo District in western Belize, Xunantunich is easily accessible. Most of the lodging facilities in the area offer day trips to the site, which is very popular with all tourists in the region.

Xunantunich was a major ceremonial site, built on a natural limestone ridge during the Classic Period. On the eastern side of one of the largest pyramid "El Castillo" is a frieze. The central mask represents the sun god, flanked by signs representing the moon, Venus, and different days. Three carved stelae found at Xunantunich are on displayin the plaza.

This impressive Maya ceremonial site is well worth a visit and a climb-from the top the panorama encompasses the thick green Guatemalan Peten District, the Maya Mountains, and a grand view of the entire Cayo District and Belize jungle stretching for miles to the horizon.

This Classic Period site provides an impressive view of the entire river valley. The site core occupies only 300 square meters but the periphery covers several square kilometers.

In addition to the restored ruins currently found in Belize such as Caracol, Xunantunich, Altun Ha, and Lamanai, many other large sites exist still hidden away in the remote jungles all across the country. Many of these are known, but many undoubtedly remain undiscovered.

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