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Lamanai, Belize – Ancient Maya Postclassic Period (circa AD 900 to 1540)


The Postclassic is sometimes characterized as a time of decline following the population and cultural peak of the Classic period.  The Central Area that once included the major city-states of Tikal, Palenque, Caracol, and Calakmul was only sparsely populated and the Northern and Southern Areas saw the majority of concentration. 


Chichen Itza was the dominant power in the north and showed close ties with the powerful Toltec culture located in central Mexico creating a unique combination of Maya and Mexican architecture. Once Chichen began to decline it was replaced by Mayapan, which was able to hold on to some of Chichen's previous power until it too was abandoned. The Maya were extremely resistant to Spanish invaders and held out even longer then the famed Aztec Empire, which was defeated in 1521. Even at outlying sites such as Lamanai the Maya were able to resist until as late as 1638.


It is during this time period that Lamanai not only resists, and survives it also thrives.  This is evident in the material culture including architecture.  There are many aspects of the Postclassic and other critical transition periods that still need further investigation, individuals who are currently working on this time period at Lamanai include J. Aimers, E. Graham, L. Howie, D. Weiwall, and S. Simmons.


Structure N10-9, Jaguar Temple – Lamanai, Belize

Illustration by L. Belanger ( -

Major modifications during the Postclassic by the ancient Maya are evident in the large stairside outsets, also present is the LBT (Lamanai Building Type), a building not constructed on top of a structure but lower and set across the access stairs




Lamanai Quad M13

Located just outside the south end of the reserve, predominately Postclassic architecture – the site of Lamanai follows what Pendergast refers to as a strip settlement pattern that occurs through time, with generally the Postclassic material being concentrated in the southern portion of the site – further evidence for this is the presence of the 16th century Spanish church also located in the southern end of the cities settlement

Postclassic vessels – now housed in on-site storage, these vessels vary greatly from Preclassic and Classic periods, some traits certainly carry over (firing procedures, and the use of slip), but the differences are immense – one must be careful not to attribute too many behavior and societal changes to this but that certainly has some affect on this craft specialization


Multi-deity Postclassic figurine

Recovered from Structure N11-5, in what generally can be referred to as the Postclassic section of Lamanai (south end), this intricate figurine represents multiple species including crocodile, deer, and jaguar (replicas by L. Belanger,




"Frying Pan Censer"

Illustration by Marcus England – archaeologists believe this censer is designed as a 'top' to another larger vessel and smoke would then emit from the holes on the neck and face area, it is also possible that these were placed directly over burning copal or other incense and placed on the corners of terraces – it is presumed that incense was burned during important events – this particular piece is further evidence to the important role that the Morelets' Crocodile played in the ancient Maya life at Lamanai


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