Altun Ha

Altun Ha, the ruins of an ancient Maya city in Belize, lies approximately 50 kilometers north of Belize City and about 10 kilometers west of the Caribbean Sea. Covering an area of about 8 square kilometers, Altun Ha remained unknown to archaeologists until 1963, despite the reuse of its stones in the nearby village of Rockstone Pond for modern residential construction. Accessible via the Old Northern Highway, Altun Ha features notable structures like the 16-meter-high “Temple of the Masonry Altars,” depicted in the logo of Belize’s popular beer brand, “Belikin.” Its name, meaning “Rockstone Water” in Yucatec Mayan, reflects its proximity to Rockstone Pond. Altun Ha’s ancient occupation, from about 900 B.C. to A.D. 1000, reveals its significance during the Classic Period from A.D. 400 to A.D. 900, when it reached its peak. Despite its swampy pre-Columbian environment, Altun Ha relied on limited water sources such as Gordon Pond and Camp Aguada for sustenance.

Archaeological findings at Cahal Pech include the earliest pottery in Western Belize, indicating ceramic-using populations as early as 1200 BCE. The site’s name, meaning “Place of the Ticks” in Yucatec Maya, was given during the 1950s when the area was used for pasture.

Shell

This is a marine shell and shells were very commonly used for jewelry making.  The Maya would also eat the flesh of these creatures.  This shell shows some regular wear and tear from being in the ground.

Eccentrics

Eccentrics are aptly named for their strange and exciting appearance. Not every eccentric is the same, however, with some made in the likeness of animals, humans and others in abstract shapes. These stone creations typically have no practical function, but archaeological studies have shown that they were used heavily for ceremonies and bloodletting rituals, which was a form of auto-sacrifice.

Lithic/Stone Tools

Unlike modern kitchen knives, Ancient Maya knives were crafted from sturdy rocks like chert or flint. Maya craftsmen used a technique called flintknapping or pressure flaking, employing hard objects like deer antlers or rocks to shape and sharpen the stone tools. During excavations, archaeologists discover these tools along with the leftover chips and flakes, known as ‘debitage’, produced during the tool-making process.