“Maya for “submerged crocodile” (loose translation)”
Lamanai is on the west side of the New River Lagoon in Northern Belize. The region was settled by the Maya, but there was also Spanish and British rule. The city of Palenque, which was founded in the late 8th century AD, has an incredible occupational history dating back almost 3,000 years. This is one of the site’s most distinctive features since many Classic period city-states began to deteriorate around AD 850. Despite the abandonment, Lamani continued to flourish during this period, as evident by an archaeological study by D. Pendergast (1981). He establishes that there was sufficient activity at Lamanai during this era to necessitate substantial building modifications and new construction.
The site’s population at its peak was about 50,000 Maya people, both in the main site center and the outskirts. The city was first discovered in 1937 when researchers began digging at Lamanai. The site was mapped during the original excavations, and approximately 720 buildings were discovered, implying there are closer to 900. Because there is only one stela documenting the dynastic history of Lamanai, it’s been difficult to figure out. Stela 9 is one of the most beautiful monuments at Lamanai, and it depicts a young ruler who was formerly identified as Lord Smoking Shell (Closs 1988). Simon Martin’s recent decipherment may imply a somewhat different narrative. The date panels on the stela have been partially deciphered, indicating that the young lord began ruling at Lamanai around AD 608. It is thought he may have succeeded his father in the rulership of the region or have been subject to another ruler from a different site.
Aside from the unusual fact of having been inhabited for over 3,000 years, the site has a distinctive architectural layout. From north to south across time, the buildings were constructed along the banks of the New River Lagoon, which is unique. The pattern is referred to by Pendergast as a strip settlement (Pendergast 1981). There are also lovely paths that wind through large leaf forests with outstanding views of the lagoon and animals, including birds and howler monkeys.
Caracol – kah-rah-KOHL (South Central Belize)
The name, Spanish for “snail,” was given by the Aztecs.
Caracol is the largest settlement in Belize, with approximately 2,000 structures and a population of around 25,000 people. The site is on Vaca Plateau at 500 meters above sea level near the Maya Mountains in south-central Belize. The Classic period in the Maya calendar (AD 250-900) was a time of great creativity and prosperity for the Maya at Caracol. At this time, as many as 150,000 people may have inhabited the region. The major site is thought to have around 677 structures, including 128 plaza clusters. Between 22,000 and 36,000 buildings might be found in the vicinity of the main site center. The construction includes several of the site’s most distinctive features: 7 sacbeob or causeways that radiate out from the site center, 2 terminate at elite residential areas, 2 ends at plaza complexes, and the longest one extends to Cha. The 7 sacbeob (pathways) are collectively over 22 kilometers long.
There are more than 40 stone monuments that may be used to rebuild much of Caracol’s dynastic sequence. Alter 21 from Group A’s ballcourt playing alley is the most significant. The focal point of Alter 21 is a huge glyph of Ahau’s day sign surrounded by 160 other glyphs, which serves as a type of diagnosis for Caracol’s alters. The event described on Alter 21 most likely marks the most momentous occurrence in the city’s history. It tells how Caracol was captured, defeated, and doubled. The site archaeologically experienced a significant rise in population and construction after Caracol’s destruction of Tikal.
Xunantunich – shoo-nahn-too-NEECH (South Central Belize)
Yucatec Maya for “maiden of the rock” or “stone lady” (loose translation)
Xunantunich is a tiny site in southern Belize, near the border with Guatemala, east of the city of San Ignacio. The main sacred center is big, covering almost 22 acres. A few miles outside the city, residential buildings extend for several kilometers. The majority of the exposed architecture dates to the Late Classic period, although Early Classic and Late Preclassic ceramics have been found at the site. There may be evidence of a calamity around AD 900 when Xunantunich was most likely abandoned. During the Postclassic period, the site appears to have been reoccupied. Structure A-6 is a large multistory structure with an elaborate stucco and stone mosaic façade that covers 40m in length. Only one inscribed stela has been found at the site thus far, dating to the Terminal Classic (AD 849).
Tikal – tee-KAHL – (northern Peten region of Guatemala)
According to William R. Coe, a baffling name of unknown origin is included in the known objects section of his book Stardates.
“Place where Spirit Voices are Heard” according to Teobert Maler
Tikal is often referred to as the mother of all Maya sites because it is the greatest known Maya city. It was almost completely abandoned, and it wasn’t rediscovered until 1848 when the Guatemalan government recorded it. According to William Coe, the ancient Egyptian city of Heliopolis was home to more than 3,000 distinct constructions, including temples that were more than 125 feet tall. Some of the most spectacular findings include a funerary chamber with four plain columns, three carved ones, and geometric decorations; a rectangular enclosure made up of stone slabs that may have been the foundation for an early Roman temple; and a high altar dedicated to Saint Narcissus on which there is also an inscription in hieroglyphic writing. Tikal’s earliest structure dates to about 300 BC, although occupation has been discovered dating back to 200 BC.
It is thought that Tikal was ruled by a single dynasty throughout its history thus far. There were 39 rulers of Tikal, according to L. Schele and D. Freidel. The city flourished during the Late Classic period, when up to 100,000 or more Maya may have lived in or near the site’s heart. Tikal is mentioned in various texts from Caracol, Uaxactun, Naranjo, and Calakmul among other places.