Temple of the Masonry Altars
|Location|| Rockstone Pond, |
Altun Ha /
Belize is an independent and sovereign country located on the north eastern coast of Central America. Belize is bordered on the northwest by Mexico, on the east by the Caribbean Sea, and on the south and west by Guatemala. It has an area of 22,970 square kilometres (8,867 sq mi) and a population of 387,879 (2017). Its mainland is about 180 mi (290 km) long and 68 mi (110 km) wide. It has the lowest population and population density in Central America. The country's population growth rate of 1.87% per year (2015) is the second highest in the region and one of the highest in the Western Hemisphere.
The Belize District is a district of the nation of Belize, with its district capital being the nation's largest city, Belize City.
Belize City is the largest city in Belize and was once the capital of the former British Honduras. According to the 2010 census, Belize City has a population of 57,169 people in 16,162 households. It is at the mouth of the Haulover Creek, which is a tributary of the Belize River. The Belize River empties into the Caribbean Sea five miles from Belize City on the Philip Goldson Highway on the coast of the Caribbean. The city is the country's principal port and its financial and industrial hub. Cruise ships drop anchor outside the port and are tendered by local citizens. The city was almost entirely destroyed in 1961 when Hurricane Hattie swept ashore on October 31. It was the capital of British Honduras until the government was moved to the new capital of Belmopan in 1970.
Stones from the ruins of the ancient structures were reused for residential construction of the agricultural village of Rockstone Pond in modern times, but the ancient site did not come to the attention of archeologists until 1963. The Old Northern Highway connects Altun Ha to Belize's Northern Highway, and the site is accessible for tourism. The largest of Altun Ha's temple-pyramids, the "Temple of the Masonry Altars", is 16 metres (52 ft) high. A drawing of this structure is the logo of Belize's leading brand of beer, "Belikin".
Rockstone Pond is a settlement located in Belize. It is a mainland village located in Belize District, near the Mayan site of Altun Ha.
Tourism is travel for pleasure or business; also the theory and practice of touring, the business of attracting, accommodating, and entertaining tourists, and the business of operating tours. Tourism may be international, or within the traveller's country. The World Tourism Organization defines tourism more generally, in terms which go "beyond the common perception of tourism as being limited to holiday activity only", as people "traveling to and staying in places outside their usual environment for not more than one consecutive year for leisure and not less than 24 hours, business and other purposes".
Beer is one of the oldest and most widely consumed alcoholic drinks in the world, and the third most popular drink overall after water and tea. Beer is brewed from cereal grains—most commonly from malted barley, though wheat, maize (corn), and rice are also used. During the brewing process, fermentation of the starch sugars in the wort produces ethanol and carbonation in the resulting beer. Most modern beer is brewed with hops, which add bitterness and other flavours and act as a natural preservative and stabilizing agent. Other flavouring agents such as gruit, herbs, or fruits may be included or used instead of hops. In commercial brewing, the natural carbonation effect is often removed during processing and replaced with forced carbonation.
According to the Belize Institute of Archaeology, the site's name means "Rockstone Water," and is a Yucatec Mayan approximation of the name of the nearby village of Rockstone Pond.In Yucatec Mayan, haltun is a stone water deposit or cistern, and ha means water. An ancient emblem glyph for the site has been identified, but its phonetic reading is not currently known.
Yucatec Maya, called mayaʼ tʼàan by its speakers, is a Mayan language spoken in the Yucatán Peninsula and northern Belize. To native speakers, the proper name is Maya and it is known only as Maya. The qualifier "Yucatec" is a tag linguists use to distinguish it from other Mayan languages. Thus the use of the term Yucatec Maya to refer to the language is scientific jargon or nomenclature.
In 1961, W.R. Bullard conducted excavations led by the Royal Ontario Museum, at Baking Pot and San Estevan, and although no excavations took place, the site was initially called “Rockstone Pond.” In 1963, quarrying activity by local villagers led to the recovery of a large, elaborately carved jade pendant. The current commissioner of archaeology, Hamilton Anderson, notified David M. Pendergast and a reconnaissance trip was made in 1963. Starting in 1964, an archaeological team led by Dr. David Pendergast of the Royal Ontario Museum began extensive excavations and restorations of the site, which continued through 1970. There was a total of 40 months of excavation with a field season in 1971 of ceramic and laboratory analysis.
The Royal Ontario Museum is a museum of art, world culture and natural history in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. It is one of the largest museums in North America and the largest in Canada. It attracts more than one million visitors every year, making the ROM the most-visited in Canada. The museum is north of Queen's Park, in the University of Toronto district, with its main entrance on Bloor Street West. The Museum subway station of the Toronto Transit Commission is named after the ROM and, since a 2008 renovation, is decorated to resemble the institution's collection.
Baking Pot is a Maya archaeological site located in the Belize River Valley on the southern bank of the river, northeast of modern-day town of San Ignacio in the Cayo District of Belize; it is 6 kilometres (3.7 mi) downstream from the Barton Ramie and Lower Dover archaeological sites. Baking Pot is associated with an extensive amount of research into Maya settlements, community-based archaeology, and of agricultural production; the site possesses lithic workshops, and possible evidence of cash-cropping cacao as well as a long occupation from the Preclassic through to the Postclassic period.
The San Estevan archaeological site is located in northern Belize 1 km from the modern community of San Estevan, Belize. The site is a Maya civilization site occupied during the Formative and Classic eras of Mesoamerican chronology. San Estevan is located on the New River half way between the sites of Cerros and Lamanai. Beginning in the Late Formative period, San Estevan was a regional political center.
Altun Ha lies on the north-central coastal plain of Belize, in a dry tropical zone. The site was very swampy during its pre-Columbian occupation, with very few recognizable water sources. Currently, the only recognizable natural water source is a creek beyond the northern limit of the mapped area. The water sources used during occupation were Gordon Pond, which is the main reservoir, and the Camp Aguada, which is located in the site center. The site may have contained two chultuns, but provenience is lost since they are used in modern times.
The site itself consists of a central precinct composed of Groups A and B. Groups A and B and Zones C, D, and E consist of the nucleated area, with Zones G, J, K, M, N making part of the suburban area. The site does not contain any stela, suggesting that stelae were not part of ceremonial procedures. There are two recorded causeways, one in Zone C and one connecting Zone E and Zone F. The Zone C causeway does not connect to any structures, but is probably related to Structure C13, and was perhaps used for ceremonial purposes. The other causeway connected the two zones where water sources were located, and was constructed for topographical reasons, specifically to traverse areas of swampy land; it may have been impassable without raised walkways.
Altun Ha was occupied for many centuries, from about 900 B.C. to A.D. 1000. Most of the information on Altun Ha comes from the Classic Period from about A.D. 400 to A.D. 900, when the city was at its largest.
The earliest structures found at Altun Ha, found in Zone C, are two round platforms that date to about BC 900−800, structures C13 and C17. Structure C13 contains remnants of postholes and several burials, while C17 has traces of burning, or fire. Structure C13 was an early religious building, with Zone C inhabitants being of relatively high status.The Late Preclassic had a population increase and large public structures were built. The first of these was structure F8 in AD 200. Although this structure was constructed at the end of the Preclassic, the majority of the archaeological evidence dates to the Early Classic. This structure has a two-element stair composed of small steps with stairside outsets that were perhaps devoted to innovation. F8 also had a three-stage development.
One of the most important finds in the Early Classic comes from structure F8, specifically tomb F8/1. The tomb was placed here about fifty years after the construction of the structure. It contained the remains of an adult male who was interred with a jade and shell necklace, a pair of jade earflares, two shell disks, a pair of pearls, five pottery vessels, and fifty-nine valves of Spondylus shells. Bib head beads in the necklace are associated with southern Mesoamerica. The ceramics for the most part reflect the pattern that was being established at other burials in Altun Ha. Above the burial, however, the roof showed association to the large Mexican site Teotihuacan. The burial was capped with over 8,000 pieces of chert debitage and 163 formal chert tools. The ritual offering, or cache, also contained jade beads, Spondylus valves, puma and dog teeth, slate laminae, and a large variety of shell artifacts. The clear association to Teotihuacan however, comes from the 248 Pachuca green obsidian objects and the 23 ceramic jars, bowls and dishes.The obsidian is of the Miccaotli or Early Tlamimilolpa phase, suggesting that this symbolism was still important and dominant at Teotihuacan. This offering may be of importance to Teotihuacan because of the associations that the ruler in the burial had with central Mexico or the association that the entire Altun Ha community had with Teotihuacan.
There is also evidence of contact and trading with the other side of Mesoamerica in the intermediate area. An offering in the central ceremonial precinct contained an undecorated lidded limestone vessel with jadeite objects, two pearls, laminae of crystalline hematite, Spondylus shell beads, and a tumbaga gold-copper alloy bead representing a jaguar claw. This deposit has been dated to about 500. Traditionally, it was not believed that the Maya had gold during the Classic period; gold was restricted to the Postclassic. This is in part because many believed that gold was not naturally occurring in the Maya area, but recent investigations have shown that placer gold can be found in the streams of the upland zone of western Belize. The Maya most likely did not use metallurgy because of a lack of techniques, which may have been due to the fact that yellow in Maya ideology represent dying plant life and crop failure. This artifact is also identical with other artifacts of the Cocle in central Panama. The Cocle had a sufficient amount of metalworking by 500, and surely played a role in trade relationships beyond Panama. This discovery also shows that important trade networks were set up much earlier than previously thought.
In general, the elite burials at Altun Ha during the Late Classic can be characterized by large amounts of jade. Over 800 pieces of jade have been recovered at the site. More than 60 of these pieces are carved. The beginning of the Late Classic at Altun Ha had one of the most interesting burials in the Maya lowlands. Structure B-4 has tombs with many jade artifacts, including a large jade plaque with a series of twenty glyphs in the phase six construction level. In the 1968 field season, after excavating many tombs in Structure B-4, also called the Temple of the Masonry Altars, the seventh phase of construction revealed the most elaborate tomb at the site nicknamed “The Sun God’s Tomb”.
The Sun God's Tomb is in Structure B-4, also called the Temple of the Masonry Altars. Structure B-4 is in Group B, which is part of the central precinct at Altun Ha, and has a height of 16 meters. Phase VII, the level where this tomb is, is dated to about 600−650, which is at the beginning of the Late Classic period. The tomb is the seventh and earliest in B-4, which made the excavators designate this burial Tomb B-4/7.
Tomb B-4/7 contained the skeleton of an adult male with many offerings. The body was fully extended dorsally with the skull facing south-southwest. The person had a height of 170–171 cm, with the recovered skeletal materials consisting of a fragment of the skull, the mandible, long bones, five teeth, two vertebrae, five carpal bones, the patellas, and miscellaneous metacarpals, metatarsals, and phalanges.
The bulk of the interpretations, research, and interest in this tomb have undoubtedly been on the artifacts that were contained in this particular burial. In the initial study, Pendergast classifies these artifacts between perishables and non-perishables.
The perishable artifacts that are in the burial that the researchers were able to recognize include a wooden platform that the body was placed on, felid skins, cloth, matting, cordage, rods, stuccoed objects, red pigment, and gray clay. Not all perishable objects have been interpreted for their original use in the burial, but some have clear associations. The entire tomb was covered in cloth, with textile impressions noted on the pottery. Red pigment was distributed throughout, with evidence of it on most of the jade.
The researchers documented 43 non-perishable artifacts. These include ceramic bowls; shell beads; jadeite anklets, bracelets and beads; pearls; pyrite and hematite artifacts; and, the most outstanding of all, a carved jade head of the Sun God, Kinich Ahau. The head has a height of 14.9 cm, a circumference of 45.9 cm and a weight of 4.42 kg. It was placed at the pelvis of the body, with the face of the jade boulder facing the skull.
The Sun God's Tomb marks the starting point for tomb construction in Structure B-4 during the Late Classic period. The unusual form of this tomb shows the distinctive cultural aspects of Altun Ha and the Caribbean zone compared to the inland Classic Maya sites. Pendergast suggests that with so much jade found at the site, the jade head may have been carved at the site with imported jade. The giant jade head also suggests that this small site had a strong status as a trade or ceremonial center. Pendergast suggests that this tomb contained a priest that was associated with the Sun God and that Structure B-4 was dedicated to this deity, based on this one artifact.
More recent research, however, has shown that this interpretation may be incorrect: it suggests that this giant jade head is a Jester God. When drawing this figure spread out on a plane, the figure on this carving shows more of a resemblance to a bird deity with maize iconography, not Kinich Ahau.The Jester God is an early symbol of Maya rulership and is usually seen iconographically in the head, or in this case the jade head.
With so many artifacts associated with this tomb, it is clear that the male buried in here was of great importance.The Jester God argument is a better fit for what this person represented, which would also correlate with this being the first tomb constructed in Structure B-4.
By 700, modifications in the Central Precinct became rarer, and in Plaza B only Structures B4 and B6 were modified regularly, while Plaza A was still being modified extensively. By 850, structures B5 and A8 were completely abandoned. Gradual abandonment of the site began in 800, except for Zone E, which actually reached its peak usage and occupation between 700 and 800.
Structure D2 is located at the edge of the site's Central Precinct and is dated to the Late-Terminal Classic. This structure in particular yielded a stemmed bifacial blade of Pachuca green obsidian in a post-abandonment offering. The form, size and manufacturing characteristics are very similar to those found in F8. Two possible explanations for the context of this artifact are that the blade could have been produced long after the decline of Teotihuacan, or was reused from an earlier time period.
In the Postclassic, Structures A1 and A5 were solely used for depositing the dead. By the beginning of the eleventh century, the site of Altun Ha was completely abandoned. During the Late Postclassic after 1225, however, there was a renewed limited occupation at Altun Ha which lasted probably until the fifteenth century. Lamanai-related Postclassic ceremonial vessels were excavated atop B-4.
The diet at Altun Ha was a maize based (C-4) diet, but there was also a large marine component to their diet compared to other sites in the Maya area. The marine/reef resources were more important here than in other regions. Between the Preclassic and Early Classic, there was a dramatic increase of maize consumption, which researchers argue is an indication of a rise in intensive maize agriculture at the beginning of the Early Classic. The individuals with the highest recognized status during this time period also had the highest intake of maize. In the Late Classic, more maize was consumed in the central precinct than in the outer zones, and Zone C had a higher degree of reef resources than in other areas. In the Postclassic, a higher portion of terrestrial animals were consumed, possibly deer or dogs.
Caches occur in two categories at Altun Ha. The largest class is in communally built structures that were dedicated to public ritual, the second occurs in residential structures with usually a single-family focus. The primary axis was the principal determinant of cache position in communally built structures. The primary axis functioned as the main avenue of communication with deities. In other public and domestic contexts, there are offerings that are away from the primary axis, and this is based on a matter of exclusion. Late Preclassic caches at Altun Ha can be defined by the round platform. Jade objects become significant in offerings by 450−300 BC. Classic Period caching practices at Altun Ha consisted of single, highly varied offerings in context with structural modification. The caches during this time period had a high scale of ceremonial value and made a forceful statement of the site's prominence.
Kaminaljuyu is a Pre-Columbian site of the Maya civilization that was primarily occupied from 1500 BC to AD 1200. Kaminaljuyu has been described as one of the greatest of all archaeological sites in the New World by Michael Coe, although its remains today – a few mounds only – are far less impressive than other Maya sites more frequented by tourists. When first mapped scientifically, it comprised some 200 platforms and pyramidal mounds, at least half of which were created before the end of the Preclassic period. Debate continues about the size, scale, and degree by which, as an economic and political entity, it integrated both the immediate Valley of Guatemala and the Southern Maya area.
Lamanai is a Mesoamerican archaeological site, and was once a major city of the Maya civilization, located in the north of Belize, in Orange Walk District. The site's name is pre-Columbian, recorded by early Spanish missionaries, and documented over a millennium earlier in Maya inscriptions as Lam'an'ain. Lamanai is renowned for its exceptionally long occupation spanning three millennia, beginning in the Early Preclassic Maya period and continuing through the Spanish and British Colonial periods, into the 20th century. Unlike most Classic-period sites in the southern Maya lowlands, Lamanai was not abandoned at the end of the 10th century AD.
El Perú, is a pre-Columbian Maya archeological site occupied during the Preclassic and Classic cultural chronology periods. The site was the capital of a Maya city-state and is located near the banks of the San Pedro River in the Department of Petén of northern Guatemala. El Perú is 60 km (37 mi) west of Tikal.
Cerros is an Eastern Lowland Maya archaeological site in northern Belize that functioned from the Late Preclassic to the Postclassic period. The site reached its apogee during the Mesoamerican Late Preclassic and at its peak, it held a population of approximately 1,089 people. The site is strategically located on a peninsula at the mouth of the New River where it empties into Chetumal Bay on the Caribbean coast. As such, the site had access to and served as an intermediary link between the coastal trade route that circumnavigated the Yucatán Peninsula and inland communities. The inhabitants of Cerros constructed an extensive canal system and utilized raised-field agriculture.
Trade in Maya civilization was a crucial factor in renaming Maya cities.
Ancient Maya cuisine was varied and extensive. Many different types of resources were consumed, including maritime, flora, and faunal material, and food was obtained or produced through a host of strategies, such as hunting, foraging, and large-scale agricultural production. Plant domestication focused on several core foods, the most important of which was maize.
The Pre-Columbian Belize history is the period from initial indigenous presence, across millennia, to the first contacts with Europeans - the Pre-Columbian or before Columbus period - that occurred on the region of the Yucatán Peninsula that is present day Belize.
Various sorts of dogs are known to have existed in prehispanic Mesoamerica, as shown by archaeological and iconographical sources, and the testimonies of the 16th-century Spaniards. In the Central Mexican area, there were three races: the medium-sized furred dog (itzcuintli), the medium-sized hairless dog (xoloitzcuintli), and the short-legged, (tlalchichi) based in Colima and now extinct. Apart from other, more obvious functions, dogs were also used for food and ritual sacrifice.
The Preclassic period in Maya history stretches from the beginning of permanent village life c. 1000 BC. until the advent of the Classic Period c. 250 AD, and is subdivided into Early, Middle, and Late. Major archaeological sites of this period include Nakbe, Uaxactun, Seibal, San Bartolo, Cival, and El Mirador in Guatemala; Cahal Pech, Blackman Eddy, and Cerros in Belize; and Calakmul, Yaxnohcah, Ichkabal, Komchen, and Xocnaceh in Mexico.
The Maya Research Program is a US-based non-profit organization (501C3) that sponsors archaeological and ethnographic research in Middle America. Each summer since 1992, they have sponsored archaeological fieldwork at the ancient Maya site of Blue Creek in northwestern Belize.
Santa Rita is a Maya ruin and an archaeological reserve on the outskirts of Corozal, Belize. Historical evidence suggests that it was probably the ancient and important Maya city known as Chetumal.
David Michael Pendergast, is an American Archaeologist, and is most famous for his work at Altun Ha and Lamanai, Belize. He received a Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology in 1955 from the University of California, Berkeley, and earned his Ph.D. in 1961 at the University of California, Los Angeles, studying with Clement Meighan. He was later married to Elizabeth Graham, also a Mesoamerican Archaeologist.
Colha, Belize is a Maya archaeological site located in northern portion of the country, about 52 km. north of Belize City, near the town of Orange Walk. The site is one of the earliest in the Maya region and remains important to the archaeological record of the Maya culture well into the Postclassic Period. According to Palma Buttles, “Archaeological evidence from Colha allows for the interpretation occupation from the Early Preceramic (3400-1900B.C.) to Middle Postclassic with population peaks occurring in the Late Preclassic and again in the Late Classic ”. These peaks in population are directly related to the presence of stone tool workshops at the site. Colha’s proximity to an important source of high quality chert that is found in the Cenozoic limestone of the region and well traveled trade routes was utilized by the inhabitants to develop a niche in the Maya trade market that may have extended to the Greater Antilles. During the Late Preclassic and Late Classic periods, Colha served as a primary supplier of worked stone tools for the region. It has been estimated that the 36 workshops at Colha produced nearly 4 million chert and obsidian tools and eccentrics that were dispersed throughout Mesoamerica during the Maya era. This made it an important player in the trade of essential good throughout the area.
Kʼaxob is an archaeological site of the Maya civilization located in Belize. It was occupied from about 800 B.C. to A.D. 900. The site is located in northern Belize in the wetlands of Pulltrouser Swamp in proximity to the Sibun River Valley in central Belize. Research has shown that Kʼaxob was occupied from the Late Preclassic Period to the Early Postclassic Period. This period in time and the site is characterized by specific ceramic types as well as agriculture and an increase in social stratification. Kʼaxob is a village site centered on two pyramid plazas and later grew in size during the Early Classic Period to the Late Classic Period. The site includes a number of household, mounds and plazas. Kʼaxob is mostly based on residential and household living but also has some ritualistic aspects. Many of the structures at the site show evidence of household dwellings as well as ritual purposes. There are many burials at the site that illustrate the ritualistic aspects and social stratification at Kʼaxob. Many of the individuals, some more than others, were interned with beads made of shell as well as ceramic vessels, demonstrating this potential social stratification. The pottery vessels recovered from the site demonstrates regularity in the production of pottery. The most prominent type of ceramic vessels recovered from the site were 'serving bowls', with a tripodal base, and were present during the Early Classic Period. There is also evidence of specialized areas for pottery production. There are middens at the site that yielded a great deal of pottery sherds and are associated with structures that are believed to be kilns as well as with tools similar to modern pottery making tools. There is also some evidence of stone tool production at the site. The most common stone tool recovered from the site is a chert oval biface and is associated with agriculture and thought to have been used for weeding and hoeing.
The use of mirrors in Mesoamerican culture was associated with the idea that they served as portals to a realm that could be seen but not interacted with. Mirrors in pre-Columbian Mesoamerica were fashioned from stone and served a number of uses, from the decorative to the divinatory. An ancient tradition among many Mesoamerican cultures was the practice of divination using the surface of a bowl of water as a mirror. At the time of the Spanish conquest this form of divination was still practiced among the Maya, Aztecs and Purépecha. In Mesoamerican art, mirrors are frequently associated with pools of liquid; this liquid was likely to have been water.
The North Acropolis of the ancient Maya city of Tikal in Guatemala is an architectural complex that served as a royal necropolis and was a centre for funerary activity for over 1300 years. The acropolis is located near the centre of the city and is one of the most studied of Maya architectural complexes. Excavations were carried out from 1957 to 1969 by the University of Pennsylvania, directed by Edwin M. Shook and William Coe.
Pacbitun is a Maya archaeological site located near the town of San Ignacio, Belize, in the Cayo District of west central Belize. The modern Maya name given to the site means “stone set in earth”, likely a reference to multiple fragments of stone monuments. The site, at about 240 m above sea level, is one of the earliest known from the southern Maya Lowlands, and was inhabited for almost 2000 years, from ca. 900 BCE to 900 CE. Strategically, it straddles a territory of rolling, hilly terrain between the Mountain Pine Ridge and the tropical forest covered lowlands of the Upper Belize River Valley.
Caracol is the name given to a large ancient Maya archaeological site, located in what is now the Cayo District of Belize. It is situated approximately 40 kilometres south of Xunantunich and the town of San Ignacio Cayo, and 15 kilometers away from the Macal River. It rests on the Vaca Plateau at an elevation of 500 meters above sea-level, in the foothills of the Maya Mountains. Long thought to be a tertiary center, it is now known that the site was one of the most important regional political centers of the Maya Lowlands during the Classic Period. Caracol covered approximately 200 square kilometers, covering an area much larger than present-day Belize City and supported more than twice the modern city's population.
Santa Rita ruins is a Maya ruin and an archaeological reserve on the outskirts of Corozal, Belize. Historical evidence suggests that it was probably the ancient and important Maya city known as Chetumal.
Minanha is a Maya archeological site located on the North Vaca Plateau of west-central Belize. The Minanha area is divided into three tiers; the Epicenter or Epicentral Court Complex, the Site Core, and the greater Minanha community. The Epicenter is approximately 9.5 hectares in size and consists of a raised elite residential and ritual northern acropolis and a lower component to the south, which is thought to have been for administrative, ritual, and residential features.
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