Xunantunich derives from the Yucatec Maya language and means “Stone Woman.” Local legend holds that around the end of the 1800s, a gentleman from 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 that extended beneath the giant 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 giant mound, they found the mouth of the tunnel, but the stone maiden had disappeared. After that, locals claim that the woman has appeared to several others, but none have been able to follow her into the cavern.

Xunantunich was first explored in the 1800s by Dr. Thomas Gann, a British medical officer. The first recorded photograph of the site was taken in 1904 and displayed in the Peabody Museum of Archaeology in Cambridge, Massachusetts, for many years. After this, activities at the site were abandoned until 1924, with the return of Gann. Records show that in his second visit, he unearthed many Maya treasures, the history of which have been lost and the whereabouts unknown. It is believed and quite possible that many museums and private collectors of Maya Artifacts display these items without any idea of their origin.

Compared to neighboring sites, the history of the Maya at Xunantunich is relatively short. Early Belize Maya settlers may have established a small village at the site during the Middle, Preclassic (600-300 BC) period, but the ancient city, as we know it, rose to prominence and declined between AD 700 to 1000. This relatively late development is unusual because it indicates that while most other cities in the region were waning during the troubled Terminal Classic period (AD 800-900), the fortunes of Xunantunich were on the rise. A well-developed site, Xunantunich, is on the Belize.com Top Ten Maya Sites of Belize list.

Why was this so?

A stela at Xunantunich, which probably depicts the emblem glyph of the large Peten city of Naranjo in modern-day Guatemala, suggests that Xunantunich may have been a satellite of the former city. As the authority of Naranjo faltered, the local elite at Xunantunich may have asserted control of the city and expended great effort to develop it. Significant construction efforts on Structure Al, the Castillo (Str. A6), and other buildings at the site indicate the subsequent rapid growth. Despite their rapid rise, however, the Xunantunich lineage was not to outlast their former Naranjo patrons by much.
INTENSITY: Challenging
MIN # OF PPL: 2 Person
RESTRICTION: Must be 40 inches or taller

All Your Own

Wander, wonder, or simply relax – the choice is yours when the outside world feels so very far away.