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Thursday, February 2, 2006
is about 80 miles west of Belize City, in the Cayo District.
It is located atop a ridge above the Mopan River,
within sight of the Guatemala border.
 The guides were very well informed and told us about the history of this abandoned city as well as the surrounding countryside and the medicinal properties of some of the tress and plants.
The core of this site occupies about 1 square mile,
consisting of a series of 6 plazas surrounded by
more than 25 temples and palaces.
 is restricted in space probably due to being placed on the hilltop.
The elite and middle working class residential structures spread only a few kilometers into the surrounding hillsides.
Archeological excavations have revealed a number of fine stucco facades on some of the ancient temples of this site.
This site has never been systematically excavated.
The earliest investigations relied on dynamite to recover artifacts.
In 1924 "researchers" uncovered and removed vast quantities of burial goods, as well as some of the carved hieroglyphs. The whereabouts of these carvings is still unknown.
(I thought that was what we bought from the peddlers at the ferry!)
I was particularly interested in the banded
stucco frieze on the main pyramid "El Castillo".
At one time this stucco decoration extended  around the entire pyramid.
Archaeologists have been slowly
examining and restoring the frieze.
The carved elements are signs.
The mask with the "big ears" and ear ornaments represents the sun god.  Next to that is the sign for the moon, and then a border of signs which represent Venus and the different Mayan days.
There is also an unidentified headless man who was deliberately beheaded by the Maya for some reason.
There is also a ghost story associated with this City.
Xunantunich means "Stone Woman" in the Maya language.  The "Stone Woman" refers to the ghost of a woman claimed by several people to inhabit the site
She is dressed completely in white with fire-red glowing eyes. She generally appears in front of El Castillo; ascends up the stone stairs and disappears into a stone wall.
While looking through the photographs for this presentation I thought perhaps my camera may have accidentally captured a brief glance of "the Stone Woman!"
Except she was wearing a blue hat and I believe she came from Texas!
It was an interesting experience.  We had a wonderful time.
Even the steep climb to the very top of El Castillo was worth the effort.
How else would we have seen the interior handiwork of the Mayan craftsmen?
If you don't believe me ask Leroy Ganser.
Where else could you enjoy a breathtaking, 360 degree, panoramic view over the jungle canopy of the Macal, Mopan and Belize River valleys, as well as a vast area of the Guatemalan Peten District, which is only a few miles away.
Before long it was time to start the long ride back to our ship.
Mind you a lunch was included as part of the tour.
As if we were afraid of starving on this cruise!
Speaking of food
the ship had a surprise for us that evening.
on this picture!
By the way XUNANTUNICH is pronounced
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