One of Belize’s most popular Maya site to visit is Lamanai Maya Ruins. This site is one of Belize’s oldest ruins which date back to 1500 BC when maize was grown there until approximately 1680 AD. It’s located on 950 acres and is one of Belize’s largest archaeological centers.
The name, Lamanai, means submerged insect. However, when it was discovered by archaeologists in 1978, they found out that by adding the correct suffix of “ayin”, it changed the meaning to submerged crocodile. This conclusion gained support when a large number of crocodile images were found, including: pottery decorations, figurines, and the headdress of a limestone mask found on what are believed to be a sixth century temple platform.
The ruin’s core site is about 12 square miles and includes more than 100 minor structures, including a ball court, at least 12 major buildings, and three temples. These temples are:
• The Mask Temple
• The Jaguar Temple
• The High Temple
The ball court is where ball games were held with a hard rubber ball. The players wore protective gear and would bounce the ball using only their hips, elbows, or knees. The objective of the game was to get the ball through stone hoops attached to the court’s sides. Apparently the winners were given a huge feast, while the loser’s leader was put to death. It is believed this fit in with their belief of human sacrifice.
The Mask Temple
The masks were constructed out of stone with the main mask being that of an ancient Maya King. It’s dated back to AD 550 – 650. One of the masks has a human head with a crocodile headdress.
The Jaguar Temple
It’s named for its boxy jaguar decoration and is approximately 65 ft. high. It was originally build in the sixth century and is a mask of a jaguar with a protruding nose.
The High Temple
The largest Pre-classic structure in Belize is the High Temple. Many choose to climb this 108 ft. structure for the spectacular view where you can see into Mexico and Guatemala.
It’s highly recommended to take the tour of the Lamanai Maya ruins with a licensed tour guide. You’ll need a pair of good walking shoes, sunglasses, bug spray, binoculars, and a good camera. Be prepared for some excellent photos for unprecedented memories!
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