Xunantunich (pre classic to post classic occupation) is located in San Jose Succotz village, Cayo atop a ridge above the Mopan River, well within sight of the Guatemala border – which is 0.6 miles (1 km) to the west. It served as a Maya civic ceremonial centre to the Belize Valley region in the Late and Terminal Classic periods. Xunantunich’s name means “Maiden of the Rock” in the Maya languages Mopan and Yucatec, combining “Xunaan” (noble lady) and “Tuunich” (stone for sculpture). Farmers that fed the occupants of Xunantunich typically lived in small villages, divided into kin-based residential groups. The farms were spread out widely over the landscape, though the center of Xunantunich itself is rather small in comparison. These villages were economically self-sufficient, which may be the reason why Xunantunich lasted as long as they did; they were not dependent on the city to provide for them. The core of the city Xunantunich occupies about one square mile (2.6 km2), consisting of a series of six plazas surrounded by more than 26 temples and palaces. As an entire polity, Xunantunich contains 140 mounds per square km.


The vase pictured is a tall narrow vessel that has a geometric pattern all over its surface.

West Frieze

A frieze is a carved or sculpted decoration made from stucco, often found in important places. Many ancient civilizations, including the Maya, Greeks, Egyptians, and Romans, used these decorations on their temples. The West frieze on El Castillo at Xunantunich shows the sun god Kinich Ahau and other figures related to astronomy.

East Frieze

This frieze is also located on El Castillo, Xunantunich and is a representation of the World Tree and the Maya god of rain, Chaak.  Both friezes have been conserved and replicated with fiber glass covering the original stucco.  This is done to preserve the integrity of the original structure while still leaving the beauty of the friezes intact.West frieze on El Castillo at Xunantunich shows the sun god Kinich Ahau and other figures related to astronomy.


Stelae were like newspapers and history textbooks for the Ancient Maya.  Maya hieroglyphs adorn the surface of these stone monuments used to record important dates about major events such as the coronation of kings.