The most important buildings of the “stone woman”, as Xunantunich is called freely translated, were built – in contrast to many other Mayan sites – in a comparatively short period of time, namely within the 8th century.
This late development, at a time when other centres were already in decline, is explained by the fact that Xunantunich was probably a satellite town of the great Naranjo in the Petén. When its dynasty began to waver, the local elite seized Xunantunich’s opportunity and took control of their own city.
The complex called “El Castillo”, with its height of 40 meters, is the most striking structure of the compact complex and at the same time the second highest building of the Mayan culture in Belize. Its upper level was once surrounded by a large stucco frieze whose restored remains represent astronomical symbols.
It overlooks the tripartite Plaza of Xunantunich as well as the forests of the Cayo District all the way to Guatemala.
In the new museum of the complex there is a three-dimensional model of Xunantunich, as well as detailed explanations of the position of the city within the Mayan world.