While no one knows the original name of the cave, today it is called Actun Tunichil Muknal (ATM) Cave from a Maya term meaning “Cave of the Stone Sepulcher”. Sometimes referred to as the Cave of the Stone Altar, ATM is a complex underground network of tunnels that lead to one of the most important historic sites ever discovered. Containing over 1,400 artifacts from the end of the Ancient Maya Empire that have lain undisturbed for more than a millennium, the ATM cave was once used by priests to conduct human sacrifices at a time of drought, warfare, and civil strife.
The entrance to ATM Cave is protected by a deep pool of cool water that visitors must traverse by swimming. Once inside, the cave opens up to a series of enormous stalactites and stalagmites. The first indication of the cave’s religious importance is a large stone altar carved from a stalactite with a stingray spine as its centerpiece, the altar or sepulcher that gave the cave system its current name. All around the altar lie potsherds, bone fragments, relics and other artifacts left behind by the Maya priests more than a thousand years ago.
Further in, towards what the Ancient Maya believed was the sacred nexus where the underworld of the gods connected to the world of men, lie the bones of the Crystal Maiden. This sacrificial victim, estimated to be a young adult in their 20s, has, over time, bonded with the minerals in the cave to acquire a glittery sheen. Nearby lie the remains of seven adult sacrificial victims as well as those of five children all under the age of 5. Thousands of fragmented pots and vessels are scattered near the bones, including some largely-intact pots and bowls that archeologists believe once held food offerings to appease the gods. Other artifacts include the obsidian blades that are believed to have been used in the solemn but gruesome human sacrifices conducted by Maya priests.
Archeologists have estimated that the ATM cave first became a site used by the Maya for religious purposes nearly 2,000 years ago. The most recent remains are dated to the Terminal-Classic Period (roughly 800 to 1000 AD), a time when the Maya heartland was suffering from severe drought and civil wars. Forgotten for more than a thousand years, the ATM cave was rediscovered in 1989 by local archeologists.
Due to the fragile nature of the artifacts within, only guides authorized by the Department of Archeology can access the ATM Cave. At Chabil Mar, we offer guests guided tours of this unique historical site in Belize. Our concierge would be very pleased to make those arrangements for a visit there for you.
Archeologists working at the Maya ruin site of Xunantunich in Cayo District have unearthed what may be the biggest tomb ever found in Belize. Discovered underneath one of the central buildings at the site, the tomb contains the undisturbed remains of an adult male estimated to be in his 20s or 30s buried alongside a number of ceremonial items, including four obsidian blades, vases, pots, and the remains of what archeologists believe is either a jaguar or a deer.
While work is still ongoing at the site, archeologists have given a preliminary date for the tomb, estimating it to have been built in the Late Classic Period (roughly 700 to 1000 AD). Dr. Jaime Awe, the lead archeologist at the site, spoke to the media about the discovery of what he believes to be the tomb of a Maya ruler and has installed a Plexiglas window so that tourists can view the newly-discovered remains.
After being abandoned some time during the end of the post-Classical period, the site of Xunantunich was rediscovered in the late 19th century when Belize was a British colony. Thomas Gann, the district commissioner of Cayo District, began excavations at the site, which was given the name Xunantunich, a Maya name which means “Stone Woman”. Since 1892, visitors to the site have reported seeing a woman dressed entirely in white with glowing eyes that haunts the temple known as “El Castillo” (The Castle).
Xunantunich has been excavated almost continuously since the late 19th century but this month’s discovery by archeologist Dr. Jaime Awe is the very first tomb ever found at the site. The central core of Xunantunich measures more than a square mile (2.6 km2) and archeologists have already excavated more than 26 buildings. The most photographed feature at Xunantunich is “El Castillo”, a large pyramid at the center of the site that is covered in stucco friezes depicting important stories from Maya mythology.
Chabil Mar & Xunantunich
The lovely Chabil Mar resort on the Placencia Peninsula is close to all of the most exciting mainland destinations in Belize. Guests of the resort can include a visit to Xunantunich as part of one of Chabil Mar’s fantastic Belize Reef & Jungle vacation packages.
One of the most eclectic sporting events in Belize is scheduled to begin on December 4, 2016 at 5:30 am on the southern tip of the Placencia Peninsula. The End of the World Marathon first began on December 21, 2012 when many people around the world interpreted the ancient Maya calendar to predict the apocalypse on that date. After gaining widespread popularity, the End of the World Marathon has continued year after year, blossoming to become one of Placencia’s most popular events.
Competitors in the End of the World Marathon can either choose to run a half marathon (13.1 miles) or a full marathon (26.2 miles), with competitors running the full marathon starting at the southern tip of the peninsula at Placencia Village. They’ll make their way northward, passing by the luxury resort of Chabil Mar, the Garifuna village of Seine Bight, and the beautiful Maya Beach before reaching the northernmost point of the peninsula. At that point, the half marathon runners will enter the competition, joining the full marathon competitors to race towards the finish line and cheering crowds in Placencia Village.
Designed to promote a healthy appreciation of the natural beauty of the peninsula, the End of the World Marathon is a community event, with all profits going towards providing high school scholarships for local children. More than $10,000 in prizes will be awarded to the top six marathoners (three men and three women), and every competitor who finishes the race will receive a commemorative medal. Special mention will be made for the top finishers in five categories: under 29 years old, 30-39, 40-49, 50-59 and seniors aged 60 and over.
The luxury resort of Chabil Mar located on the Placencia Peninsula just a few minutes’ walk from the starting/finish line in Placencia Village offers spacious villas on a private ground that features a luxuriant tropical garden, infinity swimming pool, and a beachfront bar and restaurant.
Chabil Mar is a proud sponsor of the End of the World Marathon and is now developing a comprehensive vacation package so that guests of the resort can enjoy all of the thrilling action.
Visit our website www.chabilmarvillas.com for more information on Belize and Placencia, and don’t hesitate to send us an email, or call US/CAN Toll Free: 1-866-417-2377, Local: (011-501) 523-3606, if you have questions or need help in planning a Belize vacation.
Chabil Mar in Placencia, Belize is proud to announce that it has formed a partnership with Ian Anderson’s Caves Branch Lodge to offer guests a new exciting destination as part of Chabil Mar’s comprehensive vacation packages. The new partnership will offer guests of Chabil Mar a chance to experience 7 nights of jungle and sea adventures with three or four nights at the country’s premiere jungle lodge, a nighttime tour of the jungle, and a full compliment of delicious meals, drinks, and a full body massage.
“We’re really excited to be able to offer our guests a chance to experience the jungle at its finest,” said Larry France, the marketing manager of Chabil Mar. “Chabil Mar is the premiere beachfront resort on the Placencia Peninsula and this new collaboration will give guests a chance to see all the beauty and wonder of Belize.”
Ian Anderson’s Caves Branch Adventure Company and Jungle Lodge was originally built almost two decades ago to give visitors to Belize a chance to experience the wild beauty of Belize’s jungles. Today, the Caves Branch Lodge is a five-star luxury resort with elegant tree house accommodations that include decks and hot tubs that give guests a chance to experience the jungle from a new perspective. Long-time nature lovers, founder Ian Anderson and his wife Ella specialize in giving guests personalized tours of the surrounding jungle and getting to know the birds, wildlife and plants that make Belize one of the most diverse ecosystems in the world.
Named for a Mayan phrase that translates to “Beautiful Sea”, the multiple award-winning luxury resort of Chabil Mar is located on the Placencia Peninsula just a few minutes’ walk from Placencia Village. With villas equipped with a full range of modern amenities, Chabil Mar is an oasis of comfort, tranquility and relaxation just a few steps from the turquoise waters of the Caribbean Sea.
Repeatedly distinguished by TripAdvisor for an outstanding commitment to guest comfort, Chabil Mar offers its guests comprehensive vacation packages to explore and visit all of the most exciting, beautiful and educational sites that make Belize a vacationer’s paradise.
Visit our website www.chabilmarvillas.com for more information on our Belize vacation packages, and don’t hesitate to send us an email, or call US/CAN Toll Free: 1-866-417-2377, Local: (011-501) 523-3606, if you have questions or need help in planning a Belize vacation.
The Belize Zoo is truly a unique experience and far more than just a collection of animals kept locked up in cages. Located just a few miles outside of Belize City, the zoo was founded in 1983 as the Tropical Education Center to provide refuge for animals that had been abandoned after being used in a documentary film.
Today, the Belize Zoo is an interactive wildlife park that is the first location of its kind to be completely accessible to handicapped persons. Measuring more than 29 acres in size, the Belize Zoo is home exclusively to more than 140 animals that are native to the country, including birds, reptiles, and mammals. Continuing its original mission, all of the 45 species of wildlife at the Belize Zoo are rescued animals.
Some of the most popular residents of the Belize Zoo include Junior Buddy (a jaguar), Panama (a harpy eagle) and Fuego, a Baird’s Tapir, the national animal of Belize.
Although Belizeans live in one of the most ecologically diverse environments on the planet, many of them are unaware of the rich diversity of wildlife to be found in their country. The Belize Zoo doubles as an educational center, providing information and hands-on experiences in order to encourage respect for the animals and plants of Belize and emphasize the importance of preserving the natural heritage of the country for generations yet to come.
More than 68,000 people visit the Belize Zoo every year including school groups from local schools in Belize. Student career training, summer camps, reading programs, and birthday parties for the animals are regular events at the Belize Zoo to help increase awareness of the rich diversity of wildlife in Belize.
Visit the Belize Zoo
Chabil Mar strongly encourages all visitors to Belize to visit the Belize Zoo and our concierge would be very pleased to make those arrangements for a visit there for you.
A luxury resort located just a short distance from Placencia Village, Chabil Mar features lovely well-appointed villas on an immaculate property complete with a lovely tropical garden, infinity swimming pool, and a top-rated restaurant and bar.