Southern Maya Ruins Tour

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LUBAANTUN

Lubaantun Maya Ruin Site Description

Lubaantun is the largest Maya site in Southern Belize. It is well known for the unusual style of construction.

Time Period:

Lubantuun is a late Classic ceremonial center dated to 700-900 AD. Over time, the ground on which Lubantuun was built began to subsist and the mortarless blocks began to tumble.

Name Origin:

Thereafter, the site was given the name-Lubantuun- meaning "place of the fallen rocks" in the modern Maya language.

Structure:

All structures are made of limestone blocks with no visible mortar binding them together. The strength of each structure lies in every hand-cut stone, which was carefully measured and shaped to fit snugly next to each neighboring block.

Eleven large structures tower above five main plazas and three ball courts. Unlike most other Maya ceremonial sites, the existing structures are solid and have no doorways.

Another unique feature not found in other sites around the region is the rounded corners on the structures.

Since no corbeled arches exist at the top of these structures, it is believed that perishable materials such as wood and thatch, were used to build superstructures on top of these pyramids.

Main Use:

Lubantuun is believed to have been an administrative, religious, political, and commercial center, mainly used for occasional festivals, ball games, and other sacred ceremonies.

Although no stele was found here, the site is well-known for its abundance of ceramic whistle figurines. 

A few burial tombs are also present.

The Crystal Skull:

The famous yet controversial crystal skull was supposedly discovered in 1926 by Anna Mitchell-Hedges, daughter of an archaeologist, F. Mitchell-Hedges, during an expedition on her seventeenth birthday.

This perfectly shaped human skull carved from an 8-inch cube of rock crystal is still possessed by Anna who lives in Canada. The origin of the crystal skull remains a mystery.

Location:

Lubantuun is situated on a tall ridge above a valley cut by the Columbia River, about 1 1/2 miles from the village of San Pedro Columbia.

 

From the parking lot, a trail runs approximately 70 yards downhill on a clear path to a small bridge over a creek then continues another 40 yards uphill to the visitor center.

The small modern visitor center displays a collection of ceramic figurines, pottery, maps, and other information.

The caretakers are local experts on the site having assisted with the excavation and restoration of the site. Ask them for a guided tour- a personal, pleasant and informative two-hour exploration of the site.

Visitors may wander freely about the site. The chance of finding yourself alone among the ancient monuments is common.

The serenity and ambiance is overwhelming. Massive stone structures are covered with bright green moss, with protruding vines from the tiny crevices.

Cool breezes rustle through the huge canopies of the treetops; birds and insects provide natural music unique to tropical rainforests.

Nim Li Punit Maya Ruin Site Description

Nim Li Punit is one of the smaller Maya sites well known for a large amount of stele found there. 

Name Origin:

Nim Li Punit inherited its name from a carving on the longest of the site's twenty-six stele, depicting a figure wearing a large headdress. In the Maya Kekchi language, Nim Li Punit means "the big hat".

Location:

Nim Li Punit lies approximately 5 kilometers off the Southern Highway, near the villages of Indian Creek and Golden Stream.

Access to the site follows a fairly steep, hilly, dirt road bordered by tall cohune palms and towering trees draped with flowing vines.

Upon reaching the top of a ridge, the parking lot is only a few yards away from the visitor center.

Two small, modern, white concrete buildings with green tile roofs, are situated on the top of a slope.

These two visitor centers, which are artistically built with huge stone pieces, black corrugated iron railings and old fashioned wooden doors with glass panes, blend in naturally with the surroundings.

Inside, many precious artifacts are on display. Several displays on the surrounding walls provide information and pictures about the customs, dress, food, dance, and language of the Maya people.

 

View:

The view from the center is beautiful with the southern coastal plains laid out to the east. The narrow entrance road below is clearly marked with white stones, which disappear into the thick jungle in the distance.

Nim Li Punit is set in the foothills of the Maya Mountains, within the drainage basin of the Rio Grande. From the highest point of the site, at an elevation of 67 meters(219 feet), the Caribbean Sea is visible on a clear day.

The Ruins:

Hours can be spent enjoying the beauty of the site. The thousand-year-old ruins are covered with a layer of bright green moss. The well-kept grounds have large trees with thick trunks and huge canopies, making this a perfect place for picnicking.

Birds sing all day long and the cool breeze rustles through the trees above, making leaves occasionally float to the ground.

The true beauty of the site is characterized by modifications of the naturally hilly landscape-the terracing and filling of hill slopes throughout the site to create platforms and plazas. A number of distinct trails linking each group are lined with poles and covered with a layer of white pebbles.

The site is composed of three main areas designated as the west group, the east group, and the south group. The West group is separated from the rest of the site by a small seasonal creek.

This group may have served as an access route to the city in ancient times. It consists of an upper and lower terrace with large plazas on each level.

The South group is comprised of two of the most fascinating complexes at Nim Li Punit-Plaza of the Royal Tombs and Plaza of the Stellae. Three tombs were excavated in the Plaza of the Royal Tombs in the residential area of the royal family. In the Plaza of the Stellae, 26 stone monuments were found.

These stone monuments were used to commemorate and record important political events such as alliances, wars and battles, family trees, and visits from official delegations from surrounding cities.

The ballcourt is situated at the midpoint between the south group and the east group and consists of two mounds with a rectangular space between them. At the center of the space is a ball court marker. The rules of the game are not known, but it is clear that the movements of the ball represent the sun, moon, and other celestial bodies.


The east group is an assemblage of buildings that may function as an astronomical observatory. A long structure of terraces arranged north to south facing west, provide a fixed location for observing the sun, moon, and stars.

The site's strategic location between the mountains and the sea coast allowed ancient city dwellers to engage in trade with cities, villages, and other communities near and far. It is believed that the inhabitants of Nim Li Punit mainly focused on maintaining political and religious alliances.

 

A large number of stele along with the presence of the East Group assemblage and a ball court indicate that the site had some prominence in the social and religious life of the ancient Maya of Southern Belize.

Cost

$130US per person

 

Minimum Guests

4 guests

 

Tour Duration

7am - 5pm

Drive Time

1.4 hours

Distance From Placencia

73 miles

What To Bring

Bottle water, hat, bug spray,  pocket money, camera.

Included

All tours include transportation, entrance fees, equipment, guided tours and lunch.

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