Altun Ha Mayan Ruins

Belize District Travel Blog

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Masonry Altars (left) and Temple A3

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.

Temple A-6
  What fascinates me is this site is relatively new (excavation wise) as it was not even discovered until 1963.  This site is where the large jade carved into an image of the head of the Maya sun god, Kinich Ahau, was recovered, known now as one of Belize's national treasures.  The evidence of the numerous jade and obsidian excavated provided some insight as to what a significant trading center this was. 

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 A-1
 

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
  The creation date is believed to be 500 A.D. and also went through numerous expansions.  Multiple layers of tombs were found under the central stairway which is now exposed.  This temple is where the largest jade head was recovered which weighed almost 10 lbs. Reports indicate the body was originally covered by Jaguar and Cougar skins and the entire tomb was covered in a red pigment.   

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. 

travelman727 says:
Erin, a wonderfully thorough blog of Altun Ha, best enjoyed with a Belikin beer :-D
Posted on: Mar 21, 2008
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Masonry Altars (left) and Temple A3
Masonry Altars (left) and Temple A3
Temple A-6
Temple A-6
Temple A-1
Temple A-1
Temple of the Masonry Altars
Temple of the Masonry Altars
Face from Temple B4
Face from Temple B4
Temple A-3
Temple A-3
Me and Curtis in front of The Temp…
Me and Curtis in front of The Tem…
Back side of Temple A6
Back side of Temple A6
Temple A-3 again
Temple A-3 again
Left part of Temple A-1
Left part of Temple A-1
Temple A-1 / Temple of the Green T…
Temple A-1 / Temple of the Green …
Temple of the Masonry Altars
Temple of the Masonry Altars
unexcavated portions
unexcavated portions
another building not excavated yet
another building not excavated yet
Unexcavated building
Unexcavated building
Masonry Arms Temple and unexcavate…
Masonry Arms Temple and unexcavat…
Different view of Temple A-3
Different view of Temple A-3
A-5 sometimes called the bowling a…
A-5 sometimes called the bowling …
Temple faces
Temple faces
Another face on the temple ruins
Another face on the temple ruins
possible residence building
possible residence building
Plaza
Plaza
View from Masonry Altars back to T…
View from Masonry Altars back to …
Looking down at Plaza A
Looking down at Plaza A
View down from Masonry Altars
View down from Masonry Altars
View from Temple of the Masonry Al…
View from Temple of the Masonry A…
View to Temple A-1 from Masonry Ar…
View to Temple A-1 from Masonry A…
Plaza area
Plaza area
close up of Masonry Altars
close up of Masonry Altars
close up of Masonry Altars
close up of Masonry Altars
Climbing Temple of Masonry Altars
Climbing Temple of Masonry Altars
Climbing Temple
Climbing Temple
Another shot of the Climbing Temple
Another shot of the Climbing Temple
Side view climbing temple
Side view climbing temple
Side view of Temple A-3
Side view of Temple A-3
View from Masonry Altars
View from Masonry Altars
View down into plaza
View down into plaza
Plaza A view
Plaza A view
Masonry Altars
Masonry Altars
Top of Masonary Altars
Top of Masonary Altars
Masonry Altars
Masonry Altars
In front of Masonry Altars
In front of Masonry Altars
Plaza A view again from Masonry Al…
Plaza A view again from Masonry A…
View of plaza and some unexcavated…
View of plaza and some unexcavate…
Temple A3 and part of Temple A1
Temple A3 and part of Temple A1
Temple A3
Temple A3
Face on the B-4 temple
Face on the B-4 temple
Another face from the B-4 temple
Another face from the B-4 temple
Temple of Masonry Altars
Temple of Masonry Altars