For lovers of ancient history and the advanced Maya culture, Belize is a treasure trove of both large and small sites, many of which lay undiscovered for more than 1,000 years.
Visitors are often astonished that such large ancient cities could have remained undetected for so long, but they are located in the middle of very dense jungle terrain. Most of the ancient sites were abandoned for reasons that are still unclear around the year 900 A.D., long before the arrival of Europeans in this part of the world.
Nim Li Punit
The Maya name for this site translates into English as “Big Hat” because there are a number of carved stelae depicting the ancient rulers of this city, the largest of which is wearing a ceremonial headdress or “big hat.”
Located in Toledo District, Nim Lim Punit is a small yet well-appointed site featuring three spacious plazas and a number of pyramids, the tallest of which is over 39 feet (12 meters) high. It is believed that one of the monuments on the site was used to mark important astronomical events.
The Maya name for this site translates into English as “The Place of Fallen Stones,” because many of the original buildings were quarried for use in building modern structures. Unusually, most of the structures at the site were built with huge stone blocks laid down without mortar of any kind, a feature that made it easy for stones to be pilfered in the colonial era.
Lubaantun is located in Toledo District and is built an on an artificial platform between two small rivers. Archeologists believe it was primarily a military outpost. Lubantuun is the location where a crystal skull was allegedly discovered by Anna Mitchell-Hedges in 1924.
One of the smallest ancient Maya sites in Toledo District, Uxbenka has only been recently opened to the public. Believed to have been a small city used primarily for religious ceremonies, Uxbenka consists of several artificially flattened hilltops. Currently, 13 stone slabs with hieroglyphic writing on them have been discovered. Unfortunately, most of them are indecipherable due to weathering and age.
If you’d like to visit ancient Maya sites in southern Belize, be sure to book your tour with Untame Belize. Untame Belize also offers a wide variety of adventure options, including ATV tours of the jungle.