Category Archives: MesoAmericas


The ancient Mayan archaeological site known as Xunantunich, about 80 miles to the west of Belize City, is the site of the largest Mayan tomb in Belize.


Researchers found the tomb as they excavated a central stairway of a large structure: within were the remains of a male adult, somewhere between 20 and 30 years old, lying supine with his head to the south.

In the grave, archaeologists also found jaguar and deer bones, six jade beads, possibly from a necklace, 13 obsidian blades and 36 ceramic vessels. At the base of the stairway, they found two offering caches that had nine obsidian and 28 chert flints and eccentrics – chipped artifacts that are carved into the shapes of animals, leaves or other symbols.

The tomb represents an extraordinary find, if only for its construction. At 4.5 meters by 2.4 meters, it is “one of the largest burial chambers ever discovered in Belize”, Awe said. It appears to differ dramatically from other grave sites of the era. Most Maya tombs were built “intrusively”, as additions to existing structures, but the new tomb was built simultaneously with the structure around it – a common practice among cultures such as the ancient Egyptians, but uncommon among the Mayas.

“In other words, it appears that the temple was purposely erected for the primary purpose of enclosing the tomb,” Awe said. “Except for a very few rare cases, this is not very typical in ancient Maya architecture.”

The city was called Xunantunich, meaning “stone woman” in the Yucatec Maya, long after its abandonment by original residents. The name derives from folklore around the city about a hunter who saw a ghostly, statuesque woman, dressed in indigenous garb, standing near an entrance to a temple called El Castillo.

The temple is impressive in its own right, a stone structure that towers 130ft above the city’s main plaza, adorned with a stucco frieze that represents the gods of the sun and moon.

Reprinted from TheGuardian.

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Giant Maya Carvings in Guatemala


Recently found in the Maya city of Holmul in the northeastern Petén Basin region in Guatemala, near the modern-day border with Belize, is an enormous frieze—which measures 26 feet by nearly 7 feet (8 meters by 2 meters)—depicts human figures in a mythological setting, was discovered in July 2013 in the buried foundations of a rectangular pyramid in Holmul.

The frieze is very well preserved and even though most of the paint is faded away now, traces of red, blue, green, and yellow paint are still visible on the frieze.

The section of the temple at Holmul where the frieze was found dates back to about A.D. 590, which corresponds to the Maya classical era, a period defined by the power struggles between two major Maya dynasties: Tikal and Kaanul.

See National Geographic

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1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus


1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus is a 2005 non-fiction book by American author and science writer Charles C. Mann about the pre-Columbian Americas. The book argues that a combination of recent findings in different fields of research suggests that human populations in the Western Hemisphere—that is, the indigenous peoples of the Americas—were more numerous, had arrived earlier, were more sophisticated culturally, and controlled and shaped the natural landscape to a greater extent than scholars had previously thought.

There is much more to read in this book than the above summary and many surprising aspects to the North & South American and Mesoamerican cultures before Columbus. Well worth the read.

New York Times Review

Wikipedia Summary

Amazon Page

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Mayan End Date / Winter Solstice / Galactic Alignment

Courtesy of Nicholas Mann
Courtesy of Nicholas Mann

The Midwinter Sun crosses the galactic equator very close to the galactic centre, the centre of our Milky Way Galaxy. It means the Winter Solstice Sun, the Earth, the Sun and the Galactic centre are lined up. Traditionally, this can be seen to mark the beginning of a new 26,000 year cycle of precession, what Plato called the “Great Year”. This is a very slow process, the fixed stars on the ecliptic shift by one degree every seventy-two years, when measured against our vernal equinox point. And this alignment has actually been exact within a half-degree at winter solstice since 1980, and will remain so until 2016. The 2012 Solstice for the Mayans is when it coincides with the end of their 5125 year Baktun cycle and the beginning of their Fifth Great Age. And while it is important to distinguish the Winter Solstice alignment at 12/21 from the Mayan calendar end-date at 12/23/2012, consider what the Mayans understood about the galactic centre and the precessional alignment and how they weaved this into their mythology and cosmovision.

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Maya Sun God as Shark, Blood Drinker and Jaguar

Photograph courtesy Edwin Román, Brown University

Excerpt from National Geographic.

In El Zotz some 1,600 years ago in what is now Guatemala, the Temple of the Night Sun was a blood-red beacon visible for miles and adorned with giant masks of the Maya sun god as a shark, blood drinker, and jaguar.

The sides of the temple are decorated with 5-foot-tall (1.5-meter-tall) stucco masks showing the face of the sun god changing as he traverses the sky over the course of a day. One mask is sharklike, likely a reference to the sun rising from the Caribbean in the east.

The noonday sun is depicted as an ancient being with crossed eyes who drank blood, and a final series of masks resemble the local jaguars, which awake from their jungle slumbers at dusk.

In Maya culture the sun is closely associated with new beginnings and the sun god with kingship. So the presence of solar visages on a temple next to a royal tomb may signify that the person buried inside was the founder of a dynasty—El Zotz’s first king.

They also found hints the Maya, who added new layers to the temple over generations, regarded the building as a living being. For example, the noses and mouths of the masks in older, deeper layers of the temple were systematically disfigured.

It is actually quite common in Maya culture. It’s very hard to find any Mayan depiction of the king that doesn’t have its eyes mutilated or its nose hacked … but ‘mutilation’ is not the appropriate term to describe it. It as more of a deactivation.

It’s as if they’re turning the masks off in preparation for replicating them in subsequent layers … It’s not an act of disrespect. It’s quite the opposite.

This site shows images of the sun god at different stages. It is a first showing it all put together.

Concerning the craftsmanship of the masks, they are three-dimensional. The faces push out of the side of the facade. You don’t really see that very often … because if they project too much they fall off. But here they were able to pull it off.

With the play of light on the faces would have been extremely dramatic.

The masks’ color—crimson, the bright red pigment, it would have had a particularly marked effect at dawn and at the setting of the sun.

Blazing red and perched on high, the Temple of the Night Sun was meant to see and to be seen.

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