Xunantunich Mayan Temple
- Duration: 8 Hours (approx.)
- Product code: XMT
The name Xunantunich derives from the Yucatec Maya language and means “Stone Woman.” Local legend holds that around the end of the 1800s, a gentleman from the village of San Jose Succotz Belize went hunting near the site. Crossing the base of the Castillo, he was struck by the appearance of a beautiful statuesque Maya maiden, dressed in traditional “huipil” and “pik,”,and dazzling in the rays of the rising sun. The woman stood motionless by the mouth of a cave which extended beneath the large structure. Stricken by her appearance, the man threw his gun aside and ran downhill to the village. After recounting his tale several villagers led by their native priest returned to the site. Arriving at the large mound they found the mouth of the tunnel, but the stone maiden had disappeared. Thereafter locals claim that the woman has appeared to several others but none have been able to follow her into the cavern.
The centre of Xunantunich sits on an artificially leveled limestone ridge that stands almost 183 meters above sea level. From this core area the site radiates outward, encompassing settlements that extend for several square kilometers. The epicenter consists of four major architectural groups. The most prominent of these is Group A, which is dominated by the 40 meter tall Structure A6 or “El Castillo.” Often misinterpreted as the primary temple of the site, this massive structure is actually a large multi-complex building that served as dwelling, shrine and administrative hub for the elite rulers of the centre. The eastern and western summit of El Castillo have large stucco friezes with carved elements that represent astronomical symbols, the sun god, moon and Venus.