05 January, 2013

The Winter Solstice at a Maya Site

You may have heard about the “end of the world” as reportedly predicted by the Maya Calendar to occur on Dec 21, which also happens to be the winter solstice.  We are in the heart of Maya territory, with major Maya sites surrounding us.  One of our neighbors, Craig Pearlman who has Bare Bones Beach Bar 1 mile up the beach from us, arranged a small tour led by Christian Beck of Kiskadee Tours to go to a nearby ruin to watch the sun rise on the morning of the winter solstice. 

We left Englishtown at 3:00am and met Christian at the Monkey River Village dock parking lot.  We were a quiet bunch of 4 children and 8 adults as we drove in the darkness to Nim Li Punit, a major Maya site that has been partially excavated.  It is known for the large number of astronomical and commemorative stellae located throughout the site.  We got there and were positioned on the main pyramid overlooking the central plaza to the east waiting for the sun to rise.  Our group of 12 was the only group there.  Two rangers who live on site joined us later.  Although the night had not been cloudy, there was a low lying bank of clouds on the eastern horizon that together with the tall trees blocked our view of the sun until it had been up for about an hour.  Never-the-less, I did get some nice pictures of the sun and the site. 

Christian has a wealth of knowledge about the Maya and the natural history of Belize.  I am looking forward to returning to Nim Li Punit to learn more and also to see the sunrise at the equinoxes and the summer solstice.  

The sun rising over a stella at.
Same view, a little later.
Another plaza.
You can see how easily the jungle takes over.
View from one of the pyramids.  You can see the lowlands and more hills in the distance.  Out of view is the ocean to the left.  In the lower right corner is a some cultivated maize.
Leaf-cutter ant carrying a HUGE piece of leaf.  They use the leaves to grow fungi on which the ants feed.
Another leaf being carried to the nest.  These ants farm the fungi and each nest has its own fungus that it passes on to new nests when a new queen leaves to start a new colony.
A path leads from the ruins to the visitor center.
One of several ceremonial stellae which have been relocated in the visitor center.  The carvings are quite intricate
View of landscaped grounds in front of the visitor center. 
To no one’s surprise, the world did not end or even get shaky.  ;-)
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  1. Lovely pictures Wilma.
    And I'm glad the Mayans were a bit out with their calender.

    1. Thanks, Keith. Nothing wrong with their calendar, just that somebody (a non-Maya somebody) had the bright idea that because their calendar ended, the world would too! Actually it is pretty impressive that their calendar was chiseled over a thousand years ago ...

  2. Those are lovely photos. Love the close ups on the ants and the Myan stone is great. Glad they ran out of crayons with their calander

    1. Thanks, Shaun. I think leaf cutter ants are amazing. I spotted the first one because there was this huge thing on the ground moving and turned out to be that big chunk of leaf that is on the first picture.

  3. Great captures Wilma.
    Happy New Year.

    1. Thanks, Costas. I certainly enjoyed looking at your photos all year.


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