Nim Li Punit

Nim Li Punit is a Maya Classic Period site in Belize’s Toledo District, located 50 kilometers north of Punta Gorda and near the village of Indian Creek. The name, meaning “Big Hat” in Kekchi Maya, refers to a large headdress depicted on a stela sculpture found at the site. Situated in the foothills of the Maya Mountains, the site features three plazas with step-pyramids, the tallest being 11 meters high. Flourishing from the 5th to the 8th century AD, Nim Li Punit supported a population of around 7,000 before being abandoned during the Maya civilization’s decline. It was known for extensive trade, particularly in obsidian, and benefited from the fertile soils in the area.

Nim Li Punit is accessible via an unpaved road off Belize’s Southern Highway. The site, explored archaeologically since 1976, includes 53 carved stone monuments, numerous structures, and significant evidence of economic and political interactions with other nearby Maya sites like Lubaantun and Uxbenka. The city’s layout includes expansive plazas and terraces, and some structures were likely used for astronomical observations. Unlike Lubaantun, Nim Li Punit’s buildings were constructed with Maya mortar rather than dry-stone construction. The region’s fertile land and abundant local sandstone contributed to the site’s success and the construction of its impressive architecture.


An effigy is a structure or model with the likeness of a human (anthropomorphic) or animal-like (zoomorphic) features. Effigy vessels are often recovered from ritual contexts.  This effigy is a tiny depiction of a human face.  When it was made, it was fully red in color, but the degradation of time has left only a few patches of red on the surface.

Vessel with face

This vessel is an extraordinary creative feat.  With three pedestals and a stippled body, this vessel features the likeness of a face.  The eyes are closed like slits and the nose is long and beaklike, with both human- and bird-shaped nostrils.

Jaguar Stela

This stela is one of the best-preserved stelae in Belize.  This stela depicts the meeting of kings from Copan and Nim Li Punit to perform rituals in Copan, Honduras.

Stela 14

This stela is the tallest stela in Belize, measuring 9.5 meters in length.  Stela 14 depicts a ruler of Nim Li Punit performing a scattering or offering ritual. He wears a jade beaded necklace across which hangs a horizontal pectoral.  His writs are covered with tubular jade beads.  Under a high belt hangs a typical loincloth apron.  This stela is the second tallest in all of Mesoamerica.