Lamanai Mayan Ruins

Lamanai Travel Blog

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The New River

Every year, I try to do at least one ruins trip to see something new and this year was Lamanai which everyone raves about, especially due to the long ride up the river which provides great scenery! 

Lamanai means "submerged crocodile" and was once a large city in the Maya civilization, located in Orange Walk District of Belize.  It is believed Lamanai was occupied as early as the 16th century BC up through the 17th century AD.  Most of this area remained unexcavated until the mid 1970's.  Lamanai was named for the large crocodile population in the nearby river lagoon (glad I found this out after the boat ride! LOL).  Some of the ruins are the oldest in Belize and remain mostly unexcavated at this time.

Mask Temple
  Below are some of the structures we visited at the site:

Mask Temple (Structure N9-56)

Construction dates from the Middle Early Classic to the Late Classic Period.  This structure is infamous for its carved limestone masks which depict Olmec characteristics.  Within the Mask Temple, two tombs were discovered dating to the 5th century.  One of the burials that was recovered was encased with a "coccon" of wood, textiles, and plaster, soaked in lime.  The human remains had been encased with a red pigment (likely cinnabar based) and covered in clay to slow decomposition - the pelvis of the individual was placed within a large Classic period plate decorated with a hummingbird. 

During the Classic period, there was a rise in kinship and rulership 'worship'.

N10-43 - Tallest structure at Lamanai
  The Mask Temple features a large facade mask that represents a human figure, although it's inspiration is unknown. 

 

Structure N10-43

Structure N10-43 is 33 meters in height and the tallest structure at the site of Lamanai and also one of hte larget Preclassic structures in the Maya area.  The initial phase of construction for N10-43 began in 100 BC and it was abandoned in the early Postclassic period.  Several offerings recovered were jade and shell items. 

There are 5 buildings that surround the plaza and excavations beneath the plaza provided extensive Preclassic architectural and material cultural remains.  There are two phases of N10-43 which provides confirmation the structure is securely dated to the Preclassic period which provides researchers the knowledge that the Maya of Lamanai were socially and economically well organized by that early date.

Stela 9
  Some theorize that is how they survived the Classic period collapse and remained in Lamanai for 3,000 years. 

 

Structure N10-17 to 29 and Stela 9

The "Royal Complex" comprises structures N10-17 through N10-29 which can be dated from the Middle  Late Classic through the Late Postclassic Period.  Excavation of these structures revealed remnants of extensive decoration using painted, modelled stucco. The royal complex was used by the elite Maya for residential purposes. 

Stela 9 was erected at the end of the Middle Classic Period. Stela 9 depicts Lord "Smoking Shell" holding a double headed ceremonial bar diagonally across his chest.  The headdress depicted on the monument has typical traits of the Early Classic Period.

Close up of Jaguar-like facade
  Stela 9 was placed on the primary axis of a room within structure N10-27 which is unusual in the Maya lowlands. At the base of Stela 9, the remains of five children were recovered, associated with chert, shell, and obsidian items.

 

Structure N10-9 - Jaguar Temple

The Jaguaroid Facade sculptures on the west side suffered more damage through the years then the east side.  Numerous reasons may exist including hurricanes, rainstorms, extreme sun exposure, moss, roots, and perhaps even insects.  The sides were renovated at the base of the temple. These sculptures give the structure its name and also reiterate the importance of the Jaguar in the life of the ancient Maya who resided at Lamani.  There were three sculptures excavated which were one of the ancient Maya's main ceremonial structures at Lamanai.

Here Mr. Croc!
  There were many modifications made during the Postclassic period by the Maya. 

 

After visiting Lamanai we had an awesome lunch on the patio area by the river as the storm rolled in.  We decided we better get on the way in case we got stuck so we hurried and got back in the boat and on our way.  What a beautiful trip back cruising along the river while the rain hit came down.  As we stopped back at our spot to transfer into the van, we got to see some of the crocodiles who were ready for dinner.  One of the girls on our tour got to feed them which was pretty scary since she could've fallen in the river at any time! LOL.  On our way back across to Ambergris, the sun started peeking out and we got to see a group of dolphins playing around which was awesome.  Unfortunately, I didn't do so well in the action photography department but I tried!!! Although it was a long trip, this was definitely an awesome outing!!!

paul_gr says:
You're a history geek.

:-)
Posted on: Jul 30, 2008
PhinsAndGills says:
My next trip to Belize will be to the ruins. 90% of what I've seen in Belize is underwater. It's time for me to come ashore on that beautiful piece of land.
Posted on: Jul 30, 2008
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The New River
The New River
Mask Temple
Mask Temple
N10-43 - Tallest structure at Lama…
N10-43 - Tallest structure at Lam…
Stela 9
Stela 9
Close up of Jaguar-like facade
Close up of Jaguar-like facade
Here Mr. Croc!
Here Mr. Croc!
Lily pad and flower along river
Lily pad and flower along river
Approaching the lily pads
Approaching the lily pads
Jacanau aka Jesus Christ bird (the…
Jacanau aka Jesus Christ bird (th…
See how they walk on water! LOL
See how they walk on water! LOL
Closer up of the Jacanau
Closer up of the Jacanau
approaching an Amish village
approaching an Amish village
Amish village along the river
Amish village along the river
Another view into the Amish village
Another view into the Amish village
Somewhere....theres a howler monk…
Somewhere....there's a howler mon…
termite nest
termite nest
Another termite nest
Another termite nest
A bigger termite nest
A bigger termite nest
Coming into Lamanai
Coming into Lamanai
Looking up at Lamanai from the boat
Looking up at Lamanai from the boat
Welcome to Lamanai!
Welcome to Lamanai!
Our guide
Our guide
unexcavated ruins
unexcavated ruins
Our tour group...nice and small!! …
Our tour group...nice and small!!…
Howler Monkey
Howler Monkey
Structure N10-9, Jaguar Temple
Structure N10-9, Jaguar Temple
Structure N10-9, Jaguar Temple
Structure N10-9, Jaguar Temple
Another view of the Jaguar Temple
Another view of the Jaguar Temple
Jaguar Temple
Jaguar Temple
Buildings surrounding N10-9, Jagua…
Buildings surrounding N10-9, Jagu…
Buildings surrounding N10-9, Jagua…
Buildings surrounding N10-9, Jagu…
Buildings surrounding N10-9, Jagua…
Buildings surrounding N10-9, Jagu…
Buildings surrounding N10-9, Jagua…
Buildings surrounding N10-9, Jagu…
Unique tree and roots on site
Unique tree and roots on site
Royal Complex N10-17 to 29
Royal Complex N10-17 to 29
Royal Complex N10-17 to 29
Royal Complex N10-17 to 29
Royal Complex N10-17 to 29
Royal Complex N10-17 to 29
Royal Complex N10-17 to 29
Royal Complex N10-17 to 29
N10-43 - tallest structure
N10-43 - tallest structure
Close up of detail on N10-43
Close up of detail on N10-43
Unexcavated ruins make up the hil…
Unexcavated ruins make up the "hi…
Unexcavated ruins behind the trees
Unexcavated ruins behind the trees
OMG..yes that is the only way up! …
OMG..yes that is the only way up!…
View from the top of N10-43!
View from the top of N10-43!
Looking out over Belize
Looking out over Belize
View back into the River
View back into the River
Another view back over the river
Another view back over the river
Me at Lamanai!
Me at Lamanai!
Our guide and the Mask temple
Our guide and the Mask temple
Mask temple
Mask temple
Tomb discovered in the Mask Temple
Tomb discovered in the Mask Temple
Lamanai Site map
Lamanai Site map
Mayan hut - display in museum
Mayan hut - display in museum
Stela 9 rubbings
Stela 9 rubbings
Stela 9 rubbings
Stela 9 rubbings
Stela 9 rubbings
Stela 9 rubbings
Ceramics from Lamanai
Ceramics from Lamanai
Late postclassic ceramics
Late postclassic ceramics
Mid to Late Postclassic ceramic
Mid to Late Postclassic ceramic
More mid to late postclassic ceram…
More mid to late postclassic cera…
Hard to see but its pouring rain …
Hard to see but it's pouring rain…
The storm rolling in
The storm rolling in
Feeding the crocs! WOW !
Feeding the crocs! WOW !
part of a dolphin! LOL
part of a dolphin! LOL
Dolphins!
Dolphins!
Lamanai
photo by: sayohat