On the Road and In Your Backyard

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On The Road and In Your Backyard is a weekday feature spotlighting reader submissions. From the exotic to the familiar, please share your part of the world, whether you’re traveling or just in your locality. Share some photos and a narrative, let us see through your pictures and words. We’re so lucky each and every day to see and appreciate the world around us!

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Have a wonderful day, and enjoy the pictures!


Today, pictures from valued commenter Mike S (Now with a Democratic Congressperson!).

While on a birding trip to southern Belize we spent an interesting afternoon at a small Mayan archaeological site which has only been studied and excavated in the last 30 years or so. a number large stone stelas have been found (a few with notable vandal caused damage). The site was an active Royal Palace/village for the surrounding area and may have had a population of 10,000 or more people. It flourished in the Maya Classic Period from the 5th through the 8th century AD.

There is a small museum and then you walk up to the top of the hill to see the excavated area where there are partial walls of some buildings that have been partly rebuilt.

Taken on 2019-03-03 00:00:00

Nim Li Punit Mayan Archeological site, Toledo District in southern Belize

Our guide Alejandro explaining the “New Stela” and the event it was memorializing in the museum. Stelas were erected blank and then the glyphs and pictures were carved when it was upright using hard stone tools.

Taken on 2019-03-03 00:00:00

Nim Li Punit Mayan Archeological site, Toledo District in southern Belize

Stela # 15 the “Wide Stela” shows the King and a woman casting offering into a fire. The offerings usually consisted of Copal incense and human blood (from intentional bloodletting, not human sacrifice) absorbed on bark-paper. The King’s large headdress depicted on this stela give’s the site its name Nim Li Punit, which means “big hat” in the local Kekchi Maya dialect.

Taken on 2019-03-03 00:00:00

Nim Li Punit Mayan Archeological site, Toledo District in southern Belize

some items recovered during excavations at Nim Li Punit, Clockwise from to left: Arrowheads, fancy flint knives – round and also X-shaped, rectangular “Bark-beaters” for turning a certain tree bark into paper, human teeth with jade and hematite inlays which were a marker for royalty, a large dark jade pectoral ornament like the one the King is depicted as wearing on his chest on the Stelas. (It could be the actual one depicted!), a piece of carved human bone that was used to hold a stingray spine to cut the wrist of someone to obtain the sacrificial blood, and pieces of jade ornaments which were found in a tomb and placed there because jade was believed to have lifegiving properties.

Taken on 2019-03-03 00:00:00

Nim Li Punit Mayan Archeological site, Toledo District in southern Belize

Looking toward the Mayan ball court from the royal seats. This is a two-man ball court and the goal rings would have been mounted vertically on poles in the open ends of the court. According to the sign “The Maya ball game, as it is recorded in the Popol Vuh (sacred book of the Quiche Maya) is a ritual associated with the creation of the universe, the earth, and all that lies within. The game is played with a large round ball made of hard rubber. The rules of the game are not known, but it is clear that the movements of the ball represent the cycles of the sun, moon and other celestial bodies”

Taken on 2019-03-03 00:00:00

Nim Li Punit Mayan Archeological site, Toledo District in southern Belize

In this plaza there was an official observation point one side and across the plaza on the other side were three large standing stones positioned in line with the points on the horizon where the sun would rise on the important days from the observer’s point of view. The dates were the winter and summer solstices and also the spring and autumnal equinoxes. A good view to the horizon was required for these religious observations of the heavens.


Thank you so much Mike S (Now with a Democratic Congressperson!), do send us more when you can.


Travel safely everybody, and do share some stories in the comments, even if you’re joining the conversation late. Many folks confide that they go back and read old threads, one reason these are available on the Quick Links menu.


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10 replies
  1. 1
    p.a. says:

    Nice work, and informative. I have some Chichen Itza shots from the mid-1990s that I eventually will scan and clean up, maybe send to Alain, but the info imparted on the tour is mostly lost in the gray matter.

  2. 2
    JPL says:

    Thank you for the pictures and information.

  3. 3
    arrieve says:

    I will probably never get there, so I’m glad for the vicarious visit! Carving the stone after it’s been put into place really put some pressure on the stone carvers not to make any obvious mistakes.

  4. 4
    Le Comte de Monte Cristo, fka Edmund Dantes says:

    Youngest daughter worked an archaeological dig in Belize a few years ago to obtain some Meso-American field experience. She says that it is a rich experience with significant finds, but found environmental conditions in the field to be so challenging that she prefers classical work in the Mediterranean.

    Of note – according to her, the bowler monkeys live to make a miserable racket at 2 am, the bugs are too loud to contemplate and the jaguars hunt you on the trails (she and another girl had thought to go for a 4:30 am jog, and very nearly became jaguar kibble).

  5. 5
    Mr. Prosser says:

    Thank you, a fine way to start the day.

  6. 6
    stinger says:

    Fascinating culture, and great pics! Thanks! (And congrats on the D.C.!)

  7. 7
    J R in WV says:


    Great photos, good text explanations of what is pictured. Human bone? hmmmm.

    ETA: “The rules of the game are not known…”

    This is so true of so much archaeology, we can only know so much, and so much is fundamentally un-discoverable… lost in the fog of deep time.

    @Le Comte de Monte Cristo, fka Edmund Dantes:

    I can understand why field work in equatorial jungle with predators would be less attractive than work in the classical world. Work in dig all day, spend evening after hot shower at bistro with cold beverages and hot classic Med style foods! Better than tent camping anytime.

    My dad was big on touring, but he wanted a hot shower and drinks with ice cubes in the evenings. Backpacking? Right outa here! Now that I’m old, I see his point.

  8. 8
    Mike S (Now with a Democratic Congressperson!) says:

    @J R in WV: We had lots of good food and plenty of hot water for showers! Chaab’ il Be Lodge and Casitas and The Farm Inn are where we stayed while we were in southern Belize.

  9. 9
    Mart says:

    More proof of ancient astronauts! Thanks for the story.

  10. 10
    HinTN says:

    @Mike S (Now with a Democratic Congressperson!): Great vicarious experience. Thank you.

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