Who found the Jade Head of Kinich Ahau, at Altun Ha?

            On one of my various trips to the Mayan Ruins at Altun Ha, I was fortunate to meet, Jenivieve August, a local tour guide from the town of Rockstone Pond. She is the grand daughter of one of the two Belizeans, who uncovered the jade head at Altun Ha, while working with Dr. David Pendergast. Her grandfather, Mr. Wilhelm Leslie of Rockstone Pond, along with another Belizean (Mr. Winston Herbert of Lucky Strike Village), had discovered the famous jade sculpture of Kinich Ahau, during their lunch break. Their persistence paid off as they uncovered what is now a  National Treasure.  Our visit with Jenivieve  August, was brief but it was informative and a pleasant surprise.   Jenivieve has extensive knowledge of Altun Ha and her personal connection to the town of Rockstone Pond and to the jade head found at Altun Ha, is an extra special treat.

AltunHa.com photo collage

Jenivieve August / Local Tour Guide  –  Temple of the Masonary Arts / Altun Ha   –   Leo Hulse / Belizean Artist   –   Luis Longsworth / Belizean Artist   –  Michael Gentle / Local Merchant

We also met local craftsmen, Leo Hulse, Luis Longsworth. and merchant, Michael Gentle.

My brother, and I drove down to Altun Ha from Corozal Town and we had a great time, even-though, it was overcast, and the sun only came out for a brief moment. Standing on top of the ceremonial alters, I thought of my grandmother and I wondered what life must have been like for her ancestors.  There was a few tour groups doing their thing and overall, it was just another day in paradise. Just being there was awesome, standing in a place of great cultural significance, that we have only yet to fully understand. It was here that the largest jade sculpture ever found in the Mayan world was discovered, the sculpture of the head of the Mayan Sun God, Kinich Ahau.

They were selling beautiful carvings and sculptures made of exquisite local hard woods like, Ziricote and Rosewood, among others. The Mayan and African, arts and craft motifs, are displayed side by side and show the diversity of cultures and the intrinsic beauty of the country of Belize.

On our way back we met a lady on the Northern Highway  that told us she  had been crowned  the Tilapia Queen.  She was bubbly, full of life and displayed a certain happiness that is a common quality among the local people in Belize.  We had a nice chat with her in creole, it was great.  She happened to be on her way to town, (Belize City) to party later that night, oh yeah , jump up, till mawning come, just like last week.

It was truly a great adventure, especially being that I was with my brother Edward who has a keen appreciation and respect for the Mayan culture. Finally, to top it off, we met a group of Belizean children, a local posse and their pet turtles. These children were really friendly and were eager to relate their versions of the world, at Altun Ha.  I can see them being tour guides one day and telling stories to visitors who would venture to come to this sacred Mayan site.  I highly recommend you take time out and visit Altun Ha, the most visited Maya site in Belize.

The Maya are truly a great people. Their monuments, artifacts and writings portray their respect and appreciation for nature, their understanding of the elements as Gods and their embrace of science, particularly Mathematics and Astronomy.  All this, in the heart of the Rainforest.  The Maya built their temples in the midst of fertile ground and their agricultural systems were guided by the stars. They were truly, one with nature.

If you have a story about your experience at Altun Ha and would like to share it with folks, let me know. Also if you are a local tour guide and would like to publish an article, let me know.  Children at Altun Ha

Rockstone Pond Posse – Belizean Roots and Culture

Kinich Ahau

The Jade Head is the largest jade sculpture ever uncovered in the Mayan kingdom. It is a representation of the head of Kinich Ahau, the Mayan Sun God. The discovery was made in 1968 at Altun Ha, in Belize, by two locals working with Dr. David Pendergast. Its a site that saw one of the biggest as well as longest excavation projects in the country. The sculpture spent almost 1400 years in a sealed crypt before it was discovered. A total of six tombs were discovered at the site, and the jade head found in Belize was the largest sculpture in jade ever found. The tomb in which it was found was given the name Temple *of the Masonry* Altar”, it is the tallest tomb site here at Altun Ha.

History Of The Jade HeadThis tomb was also called B4 and the jade head was among 40 other artifacts that were discovered in this tomb, of an elderly male. Examination has shown that the body could be that of an important person, someone with enough power to have the Kinich Ahau sculpture in their tomb. Researchers have not been able to pinpoint the exact time of the creation of the jade head found in Belize, but what they could do was examine all the cultural remains and artifacts  in the tomb. Based on this assessment, the tomb was created and filled between 600 and 650 AD.

In this tomb, Dr. David Pendergast and his team from the Royal Ontario Museum had to clear away almost 1000 years worth of debris. His initial evaluation of the green artifact was that it was a bead, but as the dust was wiped away, he could see there was much more to the jade head found in Belize.

From the time the Jade Head – Kinich Ahau – Mayan Sun God – was discovered, there was a lot of controversy and secrecy surrounding it. The local government was only four years old and was not equipped to handle a discovery of this magnitude. It was decided that the head be moved to a foreign country until Belize could brace itself. The head made its way from Altun Ha to a museum in Canada. It was placed in a secure and bullet-proof casing. Soon Kinich Ahau came back its country and was placed in the top most room of the Belize Bank. This was located in Belize city. All through the seventies, the jade head found in Belize seemed to hop all over the world. It covered many countries. For an additional cover of safety, a replica was made and this was was put on display whenever the Museum of Belize opened its doors in 2002.

The city of Altun Ha is not that easily marked on the map and is not of much significance from that point of view. However, it was a rather wealthy city and served as a key point in the coastal trade of the region. In fact, there are records to show that they maintained contact with an ancient Mexican City known as Teotihuacan way before the rest of the world. There is evidence to prove that civilization in the area goes all the way back to 200 B.C.

The statue itself weighs around 9.75 pounds and is around six inches tall. It is carved out of a single stone and there has been no other artifact found of this nature. It appears to have its eyes crossed, a semblance of fangs around the mouth and an on its forehead is an Ahau Glyph. These are all signs that the piece is supposed to resemble the Kinich Ahau god.

Besides Kinich Ahau, Chac and Yum Kax the god of rain and the god of corn respectively were also found in the tomb.

This Altun Ha head is one of the greatest works of art across the Mesoamerica. Singularly, it would have taken several months, maybe even a few years to get to the stage we see it in. It was carved from a single rock, which is believed to have been brought in from the Motagua River Valley in Guatemala. The color green is believed to be the Mayan’s way of depicting water as well as the corn plant — a means of sustenance for the Mayan folk.