Ruins in Belize: Altun Ha, Cahal Pech, Caracol, Lamanai, Xunantunich
Belize is a wonderful destination for anyone interested in visiting Mayan ruins. The Maya were a civilization appearing as early as 2000 BC. They are renowned for their strides in astronomy, mathematics, writing and language, and more. The Mayans are one of the most fascinating and documented ancient civilizations in all of human history.
Considered a civilization far advanced for its time, some people still place paramount importance on the Mayan calendar and the year 2012. Back to the subject of ruins, this article will touch briefly on some of the most historic: Altun Ha, Cahal Pech, Caracol, Lamanai and Xunatunich.
Altun Ha — An ancient city, Altun Ha features a 54 foot pyramid known as the Temple of the Masonry Artists. Modern renovations to the five mile site have unearthed treasures like the 10 pound jade carving depicting the Mayan god of the sun. One fun fact is that the image of the pyramid at Altun Ha is featured on the leading beer in the country.
Cahal Pech — Cahal Pech are some of the oldest Mayan ruins in the western portion of the country. This site was once home to an affluent family in the Maya civilization and the location of their palatial estate. The settlement was abandoned in the century of 800 AD for reasons unknown.
Caracol — This site has political significance in the ancient Mayan culture. It served as a government type center for the Lowland Mayans during the Classic Period. Caracol remained undiscovered until 1937. At one point, as many as 180,000 people lived there, making it one of the largest populated Mayan settlements. Today, the site serves as an archaeological park frequented by many visitors.
Lamanai — The name Lamanai comes from the word for submerged crocodile, interestingly enough. This city was of good size and occupied by residents as early as 16th century BC. Most of the ruins remained unnoticed until they were unearthed in the 1970s, which yielded some breathtaking finds. They include the renowned Mask Temple and the partially obscured Temple of the Jaguar Masks. This temple is beautiful and majestic although covered in bulk by grassy overgrowth.
Xunantunich — These ruins are located approximately 80 miles west of Belize city. The name is modern in nature and means Stone Woman, referring to a ghost many claim to have seen there. El Castillo, a pyramid located at this site, is the second tallest structure in the country. There is evidence of earthquake damage at this site, which may have been the reason for resident abandonment.
As you can see, there are many interesting ancient ruins to be explored in Belize. These are just a fraction of what exists, waiting for visitors to marvel at the amazing treasures which are almost as old as time itself. If you are planning a trip to Belize, make sure visiting some of the ruins sites like the ones described here is on your agenda.