Maya Archaeological Sites

Maya Archaeological Sites


Xunantunich archaeological site with its vaulted masonry buildings and elaborately carved stone and stucco friezes, has a history going back more than 1,400 years. Recent field work at this site has revealed that it is much more extensive than was formerly thought to be the case. The most striking edifice within the complex is the A6 pyramid, now 127 ft. above the plaza and once believed to have been topped by a towering roof comb some 10 ft. higher. A free translation of the word Xunantunich is “Maiden of the Rock”, a name given to the site by present-day Maya Indians but unlikely to have been the original name. The site is 80 miles by road southwest of Belize City.

Altun Ha

Most extensively excavated of all the Mayan centres in the country, Altun Ha, just 30 miles from Belize City, is an important ceremonial centre of the ancient Maya. A team led by Dr. David Pendergast of the Royal Ontario Museum started work at the site in 1965. It has unearthed some spectacular discoveries, including the ornately carved head of Kinisch Ahau-Mayan sun god. This head, weighing 9 3/4 lbs. and measuring nearly 6 inches from base to crown, is reputed to be the largest carved lade in existence.


This is an enormous ceremonial center, perhaps the largest site in Belize. The site sits on a low plateau deep in the Chiquibul Forest Reserve where primary rainforest jungle is still evident. The tallest temple structure there stands 42 meters above the plaza floor with an expanse at its base rivaling anything at Tikal. Caracol was once a powerful center controlling a very large area, some of which are still being discovered. From the numerous carved monuments at the site, information has been gained that Caracol and Tikal underwent conflicts during ancient history with each succumbing to the other at different times. The name is Spanish for ” snail shell” and was given to the site by a previous Commissioner of Archaeology because of the inordinate numbers of snail shells found at the site.

Cahal Pech

The central precinct of Cabal Pech is situated on an imposing acropolis on the west bank of the Macal River, with a panoramic view of San Ignacio town and the Belize River Valley. The site centre consists of 34 structures compacted in a small area covering slightly more than 2 acres. The majority of these structures are located around 7 courtyards and include temple-pyramids and several long-range, residential-type buildings. The tallest temple is Structure A- I which stands 77 feet high. The site also contains 2 ball courts, 5 plain stelae, I altar, and possibly a sweat-house.

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