May 25, 2012
Lubaantun were the first ruins that our group encountered and despite the long hot trek we had before this particular visit, we were all excited to finally witness the famous Mayan ruins. Due to the on and off light showers, the ground was exceptionally muddy, which made it a challenge to not slip and slide down the hill. The first thing I noticed about the site was that there was an unbelievably steep hill that we had to climb up. It looked almost impossible for us to come back down the same hill without slipping on the mud. Bruno, our German banker turned tour guide and all-around-expert on Belize mentioned that the center of the site is artificially elevated between two small rivers, which is an excellent military defense strategy. This might suggest that the ruins are evidence of some sort of Mayan military camp or fortress.
During the tour of the ruins, Bruno mentioned two things that made the site a unique location unlike the other ruins around the area. Firstly, the sight is infamous for being the location where Anna Mitchell-Hedges allegedly discovered a crystal skull. This has been long debated because of the lack of physical evidence as well as conflicting personal accounts of her father’s colleagues. Dr. Thomas Gann who is credited to be the first academic to investigate the site accompanied her father, F.A. Mitchell-Hedges. Besides the actual skull and the testimonies of both F.A. and Anna Mitchell-Hedges, there has been no other evidence to support their claims that the skull was actually found in Lubaantun. Additionally, there has been no reported tombs or even human sacrifices in the site; therefore, the presence of such an artifact is unlikely.
The name Lubaantun means ‘place of fallen stones’ in Mayan, which I believe describes the site’s physical appearance quite well. The site is believed to have been occupied during the Maya Classic era; however, it displays uncommon and unusual architecture for its location and time period. Lubaatun is known to have buildings that are built from large black slate blocks that are laid with little to no mortar. Furthermore, several structures are evenly stacked like stairs until the finished building resembles a pyramid. It is impressive to see that some buildings have stood the test of time and are still standing despite the lack of mortar; however, the Belizean government have attempted the rehabilitation certain buildings by rebuilding them. Bruno pointed out which areas were original and which were rebuilt. I understand why the government would opt to rebuild such buildings because it would look more aesthetically pleasing to see a more complete and cohesive site; however, I believe that the government should work more towards preserving the site as it to stay true to its name as the ‘place of fallen stones’.
Above: interactive panorama of Lubaantun from Dan Killam’s 2011 trip to Belize
Britanny Cheng is an incoming junior at the University of Southern California where she is pursuing a degree in Environmental Studies. She attributes her love for the environment to her upbringing in the Philippines where she was exposed daily to ocean. This inspired her to become a certified advanced water diver where she specializes in night dives. In the future, she plans on hopefully research diving for a living whilst increasing awareness for the implementation of marine reserves in the Philippine waters.