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Team Uncovers Stelae at Xunantunich Maya Temple

Xunantunich is a Maya archaeological temple located in the Cayo District where excavation was being done in one of the temples by the Department of Archaeology in collaboration with members of the Northern Arizona University.  During the excavation process, the party found a stelae buried in the area of the temple.  A stelae is a slab of stone that the Mayans once used to document and preserve the crucial events and milestones.  Dr John Morris, Director of Archaeology addressed the invited guests yesterday afternoon at the Xunantunich site.


“If you look on that side of the plaza there are a number of ongoing works there we are doing conservation, exposing the buildings and repainting the stone work so that when visitors come here they have a better appreciation of what the ancient Maya did. If you look to your right you will also see recent work that we completed, those are some rooms on top of this structure here and this is an ongoing process that we’ve been doing for the last couple of years. What we are going to expose today is a new find.”

Dr Morris went on to explain the events carved out on the stelae that was found including the story of the wife of one of the most powerful rules in the Mayan City.


“Various hieroglyphs that are carved onto, and this is hard limestone but it’s very smooth and on the actual face of the staircase this panel here they would then carve in the story line of which would tell us what was occurring here. Its very difficult to see but if you come a bit closer you would be able to see some of the numbers. Those would tell us the date that would be on this. You can see it here more clearly. Essentially what this tells us is that we have the death of a woman who was the queen or wife of Lord Ca’an two so it commemorates her death and then the next date on it which is a couple years later is the date of the death of the ruler of Khalac Mul and he was more than likely the leader, the father or the husband of that lady and so later there is another date on it which talks about the ball game and that ball game commemorates some kind of victory that the site had. So to some degree it is a story but the irony is that this thing is not originally from here. This was at the site of Caracol. It was removed by the people from Naranjo and chopped up in various pieces and a part ends up here in Xunantunich. Another part is in Ukaaal and another is at Naranjo so these three or four sites got together to defeat Caracol. They made alliances and they cut up the stairs in order to show and sent it out. This little Xunantunich was at some point in time involved in the big war. The people from Naranjo came and built the temple over there and so they took over this entire valley because all of this was at one point under the control of Caracol.”

Minister of State in the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports, Elodio Aragon Jr was on hand for the presentation.  In his address he spoke of this discovery being far more than just a part of the Maya Civilization.


“This site is not only about the Archaeological aspect of the Maya but about our heritage and educating our young people and of course it’ something that brings in the tourists and that is very important too. I know that the work here at NICH and all those friends, Dr.Murray, and the University of Texas; I know Dr. Awe has always been working here and the staff at NICH and all those here are testament to the great work and excavation and conservation of the buildings here and I will tell you without those of you putting in the work here these things would not be a reality. A large part of it is finding the resources to do these excavations it’s not easy for a small country like Belize and we are proud of having good partners in assisting to get these things done. In the course of this recent excavation that has been done I want to highlight the great work the University of Northern Arizona has done.”

The name, ‘Xunantunich’ means Stone Woman.  Legend has it that the stone woman refers to the ghost of a woman who inhabited the site.  The woman is said to be always dressed in a full white dress with fire-red eyes.  It is said that she would be seen appearing in front of the El Castillo temple ascending the stairs then disappearing into a stone wall.