Lubaantun Ruins, Belize
Lubaantun (“The Place of Fallen Stones”) served as the home to 20,000 Maya during the Late Classic Period from AD 730–890. Although the lifetime of Lubaantun’s occupation was short, lasting between 130 and 180 years, discoveries of basalt grinding stones, seashells, and obsidian indicate that Lubaantun was once a major trading site. Located in the southern foothills of the Mayan Mountains in the Toledo District, the rich soils here also supported productive farming operations for cacao.
The site was first reported in 1875 and initial excavations occurred in the early 1900s. The site consists of religious buildings surrounding several great plazas, which were once the center of vibrant market activities and ceremonial festivals. Lubaantun’s architecture distinguishes it from other Mayan sites in Belize. Buildings were erected on natural hills in a way that complimented the natural surroundings. The tallest building towers 50 feet (15-m) over the plaza. Today many of the structures have large trees growing directly out of the remains. Several of the buildings also feature round edges, as opposed to the typical square limestone blocks. The site contains two ball courts and is known for its ceramic figurines that often portrayed ballplayers.
The closest major town to Lubaantun is Punta Gorda, and getting here requires traveling down a 7-mile (12-km) bumpy dirt road that can get muddy and treacherous during the rainy season. A car with four-wheel drive is recommended.