Thursday, July 23, 2009

Day 46, Belize

Good morning.
Our friend, Susan, has highly recommended a visit to we come.....

One mile north of Benque Viejo, across the green crystalline waters of the Mopan River, is the largest ceremonial center in the Belize River Valley......the ruins of Xunantunich....and we are going to ride over to it on a hand-cranked ferry!!! This is so cool...and antiquated.

Wow, the birding here is superb and there are stands set up where Sita and Nopi bought some slate carvings and other local crafts too.
Marti wants to know "How do you pronounce it??" Its is pronounced shoo-NAHN-too-nich

There is a nice museum, and we climbed the temples get a fantastic view of the area, and there is also some reconstruction work where you can see what it may have looked like during the time of the Maya.

Spanning time from the early Protoclassic to the Terminal Classic Periods, Xunantunich consists of three ceremonial plazas enclosed by house mounds, pyramids, and palaces, the largest decorated with friezes and masks of Classic style. Xunantunich is the longest established archaeological site in Belize.

The most prominent structure located (at the south end of the site is the pyramid "El Castillo" (The Castle) which rises 130 feet above the plaza. "El Castillo", which has been partially excavated and explored, was the tallest manmade structure in all of Belize until the discovery of "Canaa" at Caracol.

Xunantunich is essentially a Classic Period ceremonial centre. Restricted in space, it occupies only 300 sq. metres (325 sq. yards) with elite, middle- and working-class residential structures stretching a few kilometres into the surroundings.

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.

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.

Its name 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.
Nopi wants to know why it is called "The "Stone Woman"???

Well, there is an interesting refers to the ghost of a woman claimed by several people to inhabit the site, beginning in 1892. She 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....whooooo....

Most of the structures date from the Maya Classic Era, about 200 to 900. There is evidence that some structures were damaged by an earthquake while they were occupied; this earthquake may have been a reason for the site's abandonment.

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