Beyond the Jungle and up the Temples at Lamanai

I’ve finally got myself sorted out, and sat down to sort through my pics of  the ancient city of Lamanai which dates back to 700BC. The only way to get there is by river, and those of you who read about my speedy and thrilling trip down the New River, will remember that I broke off my story just as we arrived.

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Before our one hour hike through the jungle, we were given an opportunity to look around the museum. Our guide was very pleased to point out a photo of a carving fashioned from a human leg bone. The Maya also made flutes this way.

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This figurine from 1500-1640 AD, portrays a man emerging from the mouth of a crocodile.

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If I could have chosen one artifact to take home as a souvenir, it would have been this ancient  incense burner, but the curator didn’t offer me even one small memento. Surely they wouldn’t have minded my taking this badly damaged bit of pottery off their hands.  🙂

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We saw many wondrous plant and trees along the way, such as the Allspice tree, which surprised me. I always thought that the ground Allspice I have in my pantry, was a mixture of lots of different spices, but it actually come from the bark of a tree. Then there was this monstrous Strangler Fig tree, so-called because they grow on host trees, often strangling them to death.

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This one made me laugh. The fruit grows in pairs, and it’s called the ‘Horse Balls’ tree, for obvious reasons. 🙂

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Our guide explained how many of the jungle plants were used for medicinal purposes by the Maya. No fancy priced pharmacies for them, but the average life span was only forty years, so maybe we are better off today.

The path through the jungle was quite uneven, with roots, branches and rocks sticking up, so we had to watch our step, which isn’t ideal for a blogger who is trying to make notes. 🙂

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Here is the ‘Mask Temple’ dating back to 200 BC, the smallest of the three excavated temples. It has a 13 ft  limestone block mask of a man in a crocodile headdress, on the west side, and a similar one on the other side.

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Hubby was up those steps in no time at all, but I stayed on the ground to get the pic. That was my excuse anyway. 🙂

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The next was the  108 ft ‘High Temple’, from 100 BC, and there is hubby right at the top again. This temple, the highest point in Lamanai, was dedicated to the rain god,  and was used as an observatory.

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From the top you get a panoramic view of the whole jungle, and the river too.

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At the Ball Court, where the Maya played a game  in which some archaeologists believe players tried to keep the ball in play by using only their hips, knees, waist, and elbows,

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was this large round stone, which is thought to have been a sacrificial altar. It was found to be hollow, and inside were discovered three ceramic vessels containing 100 g of crystalline hematite, 19 g of cinnabar and other objects such as jade, shell, and pearl, all atop of a pool of mercury. These symbolised all the forces, and were gifts to the gods.

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Stele 9 was dedicated to ‘Lord Smoking Shells’, and the base was found to contain the remains of five children between the ages of five and nine years. The pillar in the centre is a replica of the original, which has been removed to the museum, and is inscribed with hieroglyphics which are thought to commemorate either the accession or death of an important Mayan ruler.

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The Jaguar temple, dating back to 625 AD, was the only building still in use at the time when the Spaniards arrived, and not to be outdone, I did go up as far as was possible, until the steps ran out.

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We saw comical black Howler Monkeys doing acrobatics in the trees, and heard their very distinctive growl. They were regarded as sacred, and in Maya codices, scribes were often shown as monkeys.

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The Royal Complex, excavated in 2005, is believed to have been the residence of up to two dozen elite Lamanai citizens.

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After a tasty picnic lunch, we were treated to an even faster and scarier speedboat ride back up the river. Carlos certainly didn’t ‘spare the horses’, and neither did the van driver who had to get us back Tower Hill in order to catch the only plane back to San Pedro that day. We waved to the water buffalo as we sped past,

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and were  just had time to see the sugarcane truck driving along the dusty road on its way to the refinery,

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before our plane arrived and we were on our way.

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What an amazing day we had.

This post is in response to both Ailsa’s Travel Theme ‘Up’ and the Weekly Photo Challenge, ‘Beyond’.

To see more entries for these two challenges, just click on the links.

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