Photographer's Note

The Mayan ruins at Altun Ha were the first place we went to after picking up the hire car from the airport; they area about 50km north of Belize City. They were the first Mayan ruins I’d even seen, so whilst they’re not as grandiose as others, they were impressive to me. And its even more amazing that they were only “re-discovered” in the 1960s.

This is stitch of 3 shots showing the Temple of Masonry Altars on the left.

Click on the image for the larger version.

Flourishing during the Classic Period of Maya civilization (100-900AD), Altun Ha is located 30 miles north of Belize City and six miles from the Caribbean Sea.

The true ancient name is unknown and "Altun Ha" is a Mayan translation of the nearby village named "Rockstone Pond."

Even though Altun Ha is small as compared to other ruins in the region, the extent to which the site has been cleared and restored makes it easy to imagine its past glory and wealth as a major ceremonial center. Plaza A is a large grassy area, surrounded on all sides by pyramids and is adjoined by Plaza B which contains the largest structure on the site, the Temple of the Masonry Altars, which rises 18m (54 ft.) above the plaza.

A trek to the top of this pyramid is rewarded with a magnificent panorama of the site and over the treetops of the jungle. This temple went through eight phases of construction and the round altar at the top is unique to this site. It was the focus of an unusual sacrificial ceremony in which copal (incense) and beautiful jade carvings were offered into a blazing fire.

The archaeological site covers about one square mile of area, with at least 500 visible structures and likely had 3000 inhabitants, with a peak population of 8000-10,000 included in the surrounding areas. Evidence dates the earliest settlement here to 200 BC, with varied construction phases ending about 900 AD. Occupation continued after this for approximately 100 years with re-occupation occurring the 13th and 14th centuries.

The most spectacular find here was a six-inch high (15cm), ten pound, jadeite carving of the head of Kinich Ahau, the Sun God, which was found in the tomb of an elderly male priest. Because three of the seven priestly tombs in the Temple of the Masonry Altars were plundered, having their contents destroyed and the crypts filled with soil, researchers believe that the final demise of Altun Ha was perhaps brought about by violent peasant revolt.

More info can be found (here)

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Additional Photos by Chris Chafer (sandpiper) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 767 W: 87 N: 1198] (6788)
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