Altun Ha Mayan Ruins
Belize District Travel Blog› entry 8 of 10 › view all entries
The ancient ruins of Altun Ha are located in the Belize District, approximately 30 miles north of Belize City. Those who have been to Belize and had the joyous pleasure of drinking Belikin Beer would recognize the Mayan logo as one of the Altun Ha's pyramids (Temple of the Masonry Altars). Every trip, I try to hit at least one Mayan ruin site and although this was touted as being one of the less interesting, I found it fascinating! There is still so much of the site that is left to be excavated and although the temples may not compare with other sites (height wise) the detail found here is exquisite!
Archeological reports indicate construction was from 200 to 900 AD and believed population of approximately 10,000.
The true ancient name is Altun Ha, which is the literal translation of the name of the nearby village, Rockstone Pond, and is most noticably recognized by the two main plazas that enclose the area (Plazas A and B). Plaza A is the larger grassy grouping and contains the Temple of the Green Tomb (A-1). Plaza B contains the biggest of the structures, the Temple of the Masonry Altars.
Temple of the Green Tomb (A-1)
This is the claimed first structure in Plaza A and went through several expansions in the 5th and 6th centuries A.D. A single hidden tomb was hidden deep inside, believed to date back to 550 A.D. It is believed to be the earliest of the tombs discovered at the site.
It is called the Green Tomb because it contained almost 300 jade objects, including the largest known one, currently on display in the Belize City Museum. Some of the other artifacts found include shell necklaces and ornaments, pottery vessels, stingray spines which were used in ritual bloodletting (modern phlebotomy). It is believed that only bloodletting, no human sacrifice, was carried out atop this temple.
Temple of the Masonry Altars (B-4)
Located in Plaza B and is obviously the most well known temple.
Temple of the Masonry Altars is the tallest temple at the site, rising almost 60 feet. It was believed to be the center of religious ceremonies. Several of the priestly tombs uncovered within the main structure were found to be desecrated. Historians believe this was a result of a political turmoil which ultimately led to the abandonment of the site itself.