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GtB View to
                                el Castillo on the Belize Maya Site

Mayan Links





The Xunantunich  Maya site is about 80 miles (130 km) west of Belize City, in the Cayo District.  Xunantunich is located atop a ridge above the Mopan River, within sight of the Guatemala border. In the  early morning from the 28. May 2009, we got a 7.1 Earthquake near Roatan Honduras, and the A-6 El Castillo structure got some cracks.

GtB Map of
                                  the Mayan Xunantunich. Click to
Click any Pictures to enlarge
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Xunantunich 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. The Stone Woman 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.
The core of Xunantunich occupies about one square mile (2.6 km²), consisting of a series of six plazas surrounded by more than 26 temples and palaces. One of its structures, the pyramid known as "El Castillo," the second tallest structure in Belize (after the temple at Caracol), at some 130 feet (40 m) tall. 
GtB View to
                                direction south from Plaza A2 with El
                                Castiilo in the background
Archeological excavations have revealed a number of fine stucco facades on some of the ancient temples of this site. Evidence of construction suggests the temple was built in three stages in the 600s AD, 700s AD, and 800s AD. The fine stucco or "frieze" are located on the final stage.

El Castillo,  stucco Frieze

The upper part of El Castillo has friezes on the east side and the west side. This Maya frieze where excavated in 1993. A fiberglass replica are made and placed over the original frieze to protect them. The carved elements are signs. The mask with the "big ears" and skillful ear ornaments represent the eternity of the sun god Kinich Ahau.

GtB West Side stucco Relief on El
Next to Kinich Ahau, is the sign for the moon represented trough Xbalanque, and then a border of signs which represent the Venus with Hun Ahaw and the different Mayan days. There is also an unidentified headless man, who was deliberately beheaded by the Maya for unknown reason.

The Maya kept time with a combination of several cycles that meshed together to mark the movement of the sun, moon and Venus. Their ritual calendar, known as the Tzolkin, was composed of 260 days.  By tracking the movements of the Moon, Venus, and other heavenly bodies, the Mayans realized that there were cycles in the Cosmos. From this came their reckoning of time, and a calendar that accurately measures the solar year to within minutes.

Structure A-1

From to of the Castillo, you have a excellent view of the structure A-1 with there 4 levels. In the Year 1995, the Cotsen Institute of Archaeology at UCLA endet a conservation project and transformed unexcavated mounds back into the structur A-1.
GtB Xunantunich
                                Structure A1. View from El Castillo
The collaborative project focused on several areas as scientific research and testing to understand the processes of deterioration of limestone and stucco in humid, tropical environments; conservation of excavated Maya structures.

The structural damage to Maya monuments in Belize, is caused by the intrusion of roots of shrubs and trees into the building fabric is a consequence not only of the tropical environment, but also of the building techniques employed by the Maya. The accient Maya built their pyramids and temples in stages, each stage constituting a separate structural unit. During their period of use, the structural equilibrium of these Maya buildings was assured by the application and continuous maintenance of an impermeable stucco facing on a structure's exterior.

Once a Maya building was abandoned, its stuccoed floors and walls cracked, and vegetation and water invaded, causing weakness and the potential for collapse. Ironically, although vegetation was the initial source of damage, in time it became the agent of stability by literally binding together, through root penetration, the collapsing structure. Removal of the vegetation in order to excavate the structure disrupts once again the equilibrium and exposes the structure to a fresh cycle of deterioration.

Structure A11

The structure A-11 was ongoing many redesigning and stucco frieze fragments reference the powerful concept like the genius scared mountain of this structure.. The Maya blocked and filled the interior stairway to the upper building, the ruler’s private residence, shifting access to the rear of the structure.
GtB Xunantunich, with the genius
                                scared mountain of structur A11
Subsequently, they blocked the doorways of the flanking rooms and filled them, sealing these spaces for private interactions with the ruler. The Maya later removed the stair block in front, a feature that had permitted the extension of activities on the frontal terrace into closer proximity to the people in the plaza. Use of the central room continued, but it was also later dismantled stone-by-stone and then filled, marking the end of the use from Structure A-11.


The group A contains one of the two ball courts discovered at the site.  One ballcourt is between the structures A-18 and A-19 and the other ball court is  between Plaza A-1 and Plaza A-2. The Xuanantunich ball court’s are all average in size and where used for the Mayan Ball Games.

GtB One of the Ballcourt's in
The ball game, which was a common activity of all Mesoamerican peoples and originated about 3,000 B.C., had a ritualistic function for the ancient Maya. Two teams (the number of players depended on the region where the game was played) faced off on courts whose measurements could vary. Most ball courts had two sloping parallel walls inset with three round disks called markers or a single stone ring, at right angles to the ground.

Ballplayers wore protective equipment during the game to prevent bodily damage by the hard rubber ball. The balls are made of solid rubber and weighed up to 4 kg (9 lbs) or more, and sizes differed greatly over time or according to the version played. Players would attempt to bounce the ball without using their hands and only touch the ball with their elbows, knees or hips through stone hoops attached to the sides of the ball court.

As far a we know, the winners of the game were treated as heroes and given a great feast. The penalty for losing a game was unusually harsh: death. The leader of the team who lost the game was killed. This fit in with the Mayan belief that human sacrifice was necessary for the continued success of the peoples' agriculture, trade, and overall health.

Xunantunich Tour

Xunantunich it close to San Ignacio and Benque Viejo del Carmen. In these two Towns many tour Licensed Tour Operator offer there Tours. Compare the price and service before you book.  Because the tensed security situation with Guatemala criminals, you will always find police and military presence in Caracol, Nim Li Punit and Xunantunich.

GtB Ferry to
                                Cross the the Mopan River to
If you stay in on the Cayes, in the South or in Belize City, its much easier to Travel in 2 hours by Bus or rental Car to San Ignacio make a afternoon tour and the next day a morning tour. In San Ignacio and Benque Viejo del Carmen you will find affordable Hotel and the following Attractions are near by: Cahal Pech, Caracol, Nim Li Punit, 5 Sister Fall, ATM Caves and much more.

Catch a bus toward from San Ignacio to Benque Viejo Del Carmen or vice versa. 5 Minutes from Benque or 15 Minutes from San Ignacio to your reach the village of San Jose Succotz. Leaf the Bus there and cross the Mopan River river via free hand cranked ferry, and then walk about 1 mile on a winding mountain road to the site.  The ferry cam only take one car at a time and  sometimes there is a line up to leave. The Ferry is the only way across the river. The ferry hours should be from 7:00am to 5:00pm please verifying them before you cross.

If you need a map of the Xunantunich Site, at our Maya Site Maps page, there is a printable version available for download.

Bring along: Good shoes, sunglasses, sun shade, sun bloc, bug spray, camera.



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