Mayan Ruins

Lamanai's lay-out was quite different from most other Maya sites in Belize that were generally organized in plazas around a ceremonal structure.  However, at Lamanai, most ceremonial buildings were built along the west bank of the New River and the New River Lagoon, with residential structures to the north, west and south. 

Only about 5% of the site has been investigated and much remains buried or covered by jungle and bush.  However, archaeologists do know that structures were built on top of other structures, with the older structures frequently at least partially razed, sometimes leaving masks and other ornamental features from the older buildings in odd places in the new buildings, such as in stairwells.

In addition to Mayan buildings and artifacts, the Lamanai site also includes the remains of a 19th century sugar mill, a brick-lined reservoir and the charred remains of two 16th century Catholic churches.  The church remains are charred because the Maya burned each of them down after the Spanish built the churches in an attempt to convert the Maya inhabitants of Lamanai to Catholicism.  The first church building particularly incensed the Maya -- the Spanish built the church on the foundations of a Mayan temple that they demolished to make way for the new church.

Lamanai continued to flourish in the Post Classic Period primarily because of its trade of metals, particularly copper objects, thought to have been produced on-site at Lamanai beginning by approximately 1150 AD.  More copper artifacts have been found at Lamanai than at any other Mayan site, and the artifacts have included bells, rings, tweezers, various clothing ornaments, pins, axes, chisels, needles, and fish hooks.  

Access to the Lamanai ruins is by boat up the New River from Orange Walk.  Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary is located 8 miles west of the Lamanai Archological reserve.  

Latitude:   17°45'9.36"N/Longitude:   88°39'16.20"W