Xunantunich is an Ancient Mayan archaeological site in the West of Belize, in Socouts Village, Cayo District. It is one of Belize’s most visited Mayan ruins and so has become a very crucial site for the tourism industry.
As of yesterday, the Xunantunich site has a new Visitor’s Center. Our correspondent Kent Pandy was there for the official inauguration of the Xunantunich Visitors Center and spoke to Dr. Jaime Awe, Commissioner of Archaeology.
“We are presently standing in the newly open Xunantunich Visitor Center. It brings us to a whole new level of sight. Visitor Center is because the exhibits that we have here incorporate not just artifacts but also big murals and a lot of information. When you go to the door, you are greeted, as you see behind me with this big mural, that has a wooden cross down at the bottom. That wooden cross is a replica of what was noted at the site in the 1800’s when Thomas Gaunn, an English doctor first visited the site. He reports that the Maya from San Jose Succ’otz used to leave offerings at the base of a wooden cross. When you go inside past this point, we have information about how this site developed from its earliest occupation right up to when the site was abandoned. We have panels that tell us about names of Xunantunich (because this site has changed names four times”.
Dr. Awe told us more about the actual Mayan ruin and about its name.
Dr. Jaime Awe: “The first name that was used for the site was Mount Maloney, because of this British governor Alfred Maloney in the 1800’s commissioned a survey of this area and the surveyors put a monument at the top of that big pyramid thinking it was a hill and decided to call it after the governor. Later on, Derrick Thompson, a famous British archaeologist decided to call the site Benque Viejo. Well you know the village is in Succ’otz, so, the villagers weren’t too happy with that name. It was ten subsequently changed to Xunantunich which means Stone Maiden based on a legend and then in 2003, I was excavating in one of the buildings and we found this carved monument which had a Maya writing on it, and in that writing, it told us that the ancient name of the city was Kat Witz which means ‘Clay Mountain’. But we are not going to change the name from Xunantunich because it is so established now”.