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Ceremonial & Religious Structures and Ritual Areas – Lamanai, Belize

Ethnographic data gathered from those who first recorded and described what they encountered in Mesoamerica indicates that the Maya generally carried out rituals in order to ensure a healthy prosperous life and successful crops.  Sacrifices and rituals were also conducted to appease the various gods and rulers.  These rituals are not only documented through various ethnographic sources but depictions occur on ceramic vessels (especially the famous Classic period cylinders), Maya codices, and murals such as those found at Bonampak in the Chiapas region in Mexico.  Rituals and ceremonies included human and self-sacrifice, dancing, divination and altered consciousness.  The Maya worshipped various gods and deities that included Itzamna (Elderly, wisdom), Chac (Rain), and Kinich Ahau (Sun).  Various deities the Maya worshipped included animal species such as the jaguar, crocodile, and snake; these are often depicted in the art and architecture of the Maya.

Alter 1, N10-PA2 (Jaguar Temple Plaza)

Recently night photographed by Stuart Laidlaw, this alter contains eroded hieroglyphs that became more legible with the night images recorded by Laidlaw – this plaza area also contains another important ceremonial platform seen below

Structure N10-10 – Lamanai, Belize

Small Postclassic platform just visible in the lower front – an important ritual feasting or sacrifice of white tail deer took place some time during the Postclassic, N. Stanchly has recorded cranial elements indicating over 30 deer that may have been slaughtered publicly for either feasting or ritual purposes  

Structure N9-56 (Mask Temple) from the air depicting the proximity of the lagoon to this major Maya ceremonial structure at Lamanai, Belize

New River Lagoon (upper portion of image) is one of the most important features of the ancient (and modern) city of Lamanai; it served as a transportation and communication route 

West bank of the New River Lagoon as seen looking north – the 'hills' are structures located in the N9 Quad (N9-56, Mask Temple)

 Certainly water was sacred to the ancient Maya – the cenote at Chichen Itza produced numerous important artifacts and discoveries, one being that ritual activity took place regularly there – although no work to date has been conducted in the New River Lagoon we certainly feel this body of water must have had important ceremonial and ritual significance  

Ritual Mayapan Censor Smashing – Late Postclassic Period - Lamanai, Belize

Well after the large ceremonial structure of N9-56 is abandoned and no longer utilized on an everyday basis numerous large Mayapan censors, similar to the one shown here are ritually smashed on a small Late Postclassic platform built in front of N9-56 – this platform is yet another example of the numerous late platforms that are so difficult to discern, often looking like collapse from the main temples – this platform is represented by the uneven surface with a few exposed facing stones visible in the lower front portion of this image  

Evidence of ritual dancing

Incensario from the Postclassic period at Lamanai – visible on the upper leg are copper bells, these status items are currently being studied by S. Simmons ( - certainly we know the Maya held ceremonies that included dancing, some of these include Pocam, Chic kaban,

and Pacum chac - the murals of Bonampak, also provide us with valuable information about musical instruments that may have been utilized during these dance ceremonies also

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