Tag Archives: Mayan


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.

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.

Mayan Ball Court: Science, Religion & Architecture in One

Archaeologists have found the Mayas built structures on top of the ball court at Chichen Itza to observe the equinoxes and solstices. They have determined the sun shines through slit-like openings during the winter solstice when the setting sun touches the horizon. It appears to be one of a kind and coincidentally the Chichen Itza ball court is the largest one found in the Mayan world.

“The fact that the sun rise can be observed behind a structure should be understood in that sense, as reverence to the sun or other star, not necessarily as an observatory in the technical sense,” Estrada-Belli said. The orientation of the structures “emphasized the sacrality of the ritual space.”

First printed by the Associated Press.

Mayan End of World Prediction Explored in Film

Museum of Natural Science in Houston explores the Mayan endate. Sumners says the end of Maya time periods generally were regarded the same way we look at such things as the start of a new century or a new millennium. “It seems to be a cause of celebration. There does not seem to be any indication in the Maya writings of great disaster.

Full Article

Ancient Maya Temples Acoustics

As anyone who has visited the ancient Mayan and Aztec sites in Mexico might have noticed, in most of the places the architecture of the buildings produce the effect of amplifying someones voice if they speak above a certain volume. It has been built into the buildings and walls and other structures. Recently researchers have looked into this phenomenon and have concluded that “… there was an intentionality of the builders to use and modify its architecture for acoustic purposes.” The Maya held public rites and the buildings appear to serve more than one purpose. They note there is one place were sounds can be heard clearly at least the length of a football field.

The full article is is posted in the National Geographic News.

Mayan December 21, 2012 End Date Wrong?

Reprint from ABCNews.

The Mayan Inscriptions' Palace at the Palenque archaeological site, in Chiapas state. (Omar Torres/AFP/Getty Images)

Professor Gerardo Aldana, an associate professor of Chicana and Chicano Studies at U.C. Santa Barbara, said that the date could be inaccurate by 50 to 100 years or even more.

Aldana says that scholars have used the fixed numerical value called GMT constant to figure out the correlation between the Mayan and Gregorian dates. He says that the method has never been proven conclusively.

He added that his findings might challenge the accepted Gregorian dates, which are published in the new book “Calendars and Years II: Astronomy and Time in the Ancient and Medieval World.”

In his research, he attempted to reconstruct the astronomical practices of the ancient Maya people.

“One of the principal complications is that there are really so few scholars who know the astronomy, the epigraphy, and the archeology,” Aldana said in a release.

“Because there are so few people who are working on that, you get people who don’t see the full scope of the problem. And because they don’t see the full scope, they buy into things they otherwise wouldn’t. It’s a fun problem.”

Researcher Questions Accuracy of Mayan Calendar’s 2012 Prophecy and Other Dates

The GMT constant, named for early Mayan scholars Joseph Goodman, Juan Martinez-Hernandez and J. Eric S. Thompson, is partly based on astronomical events. Those early Mayanists relied heavily on dates found in colonial documents written in Mayan languages and recorded in the Latin alphabet, the release said.

A later scholar, American linguist and anthropologist Floyd Lounsbury, further supported the GMT constant.

But, through his research reconstructing Mayan astronomical practices and reviewing data in the archeological record, the release said Aldana found weaknesses in Lounsbury’s work that cause the argument behind the GMT constant to fall “like a stack of cards.”

“This may not seem to be much, but what it does is destabilize the entire argument,” he said.

“A few scholars have stood up and said, ‘No, the GMT is wrong,'” Aldana said. “But in my opinion, what they’ve done is try to provide alternatives without looking at why the GMT is wrong in the first place.”