Altun Ha is located in Rockstone Pond Village in Belize, Central America. It is the most visited Mayan site, in the country. People who want to know more about the ancient Mayan culture, their beliefs, and traditions visit this ceremonial location year-round. The Maya people of Altun Ha left traces of a culture rich in social rituals, mathematics, and the study of the heavens. The temples surrounding the area offer a wealth of information regarding the classical history of the Mayan culture. This site has an area of about 25 square miles and is surrounded by lush forests and vegetation.
It is believed that the Mayans began to populate in Altun Ha around 250 BC. During the early classing period, the population grew to about 3,000. Evidence shows that during this period, people in Altun Ha lived a luxurious life. There are discoveries of important items, particularly in Structure F8, which prove that high-valued items were used by their leaders or rulers as accessories. This is also combined with the discovery of a tomb and remains of an elderly male who wore valuable items which only people of high status were able to wear. Leaders and rulers wore items such as jade necklaces, ear flares, shells, pearls, beads, rings, and other valuable accessories. Many other offerings were also found in the tomb like ceramic bowls and jars. This proves that this location became a center of trade during that period.
More precious items and luxurious burials that symbolize wealth have continued to be discovered. Tombs in temples showed proof the early Mayans were not just rich in culture but literally rich. It is believed that around the 11th century, Altun Ha was abandoned by its people. There were several renewed occupations but they later again vacated. Scientists believe that the main reason for the abandonment of Mayans from this place was due to violence or an actual revolt against their rulers.
Maya Sun God Jade Head
The most dazzling discovery in the Temple of the Masonry Altars is the five kilogram, fifteen centimeter, solid-jade head of Kinich Ahau, the Sun God. This sculpture is the largest jade artifact uncovered to date, in the Mayan world. Since its discovery, it has been the focus of great study and speculation.
The Jade is presently in the Central Bank of Belize but is sometimes in the Museum of Belize for display. It is a natural treasure and the most valuable icon of the people of Belize. Actually, the jade head appears on Belize banknotes in all denominations.
Temple of Green Tomb
This is also called as Temple A-1 and is known for where a Mayan priest-king was found in his funeral chamber. It was found that his tomb had treasures and offerings. It is believed that the tomb was constructed between the 5th and 6th centuries A.D. It showcases terraced plazas and is called the “Green Tomb” because around 300 jade items were found there.
Temple of the Masonry Altars
This temple is the largest and considered the most important in Altun Ha. It served as the main point of Mayan’s religious rites and activities. Evidence shows that bloodletting and ceremonial sacrifices happened in this structure. During these occasions, it is understood, that jade artifacts were destroyed against the altars.
After quarry work was done in 1968, some of the priestly tombs were found to be destroyed. It is believed that there was a violent rebellion that happened in this temple. The famous carved jade head of the Mayan Sun God, Kinich Ahau, was discovered here in Rockstone Pond Village, by Wilhelm Leslie and another local that were working with Dr. David dPendergast.
It is not easy to travel to Altun Ha which is why cruise ship passengers are the most common to visit this place. You will need an experienced tour guide for more convenient travel to this location. Comfortable clothing and shoes are also suggested because visitors are required to do a lot of walking and climbing up uneven steps. This is required when visiting the site. The weather is usually humid or hot so it is also a good idea to bring sunscreen protection. Pregnant women or those with medical conditions are recommended not to join this trip.
You will enjoy the rich wildlife and different species of birds while travelling to Belize. Due to its green surroundings, many visitors quickly experience feelings of getting closer to nature and ancient communities. When you get there, make sure to climb the highest plaza that you can reach. If you are able to reach the highest part of this famous Mayan temple, you will definitely experience the history of Altun Ha.