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PLACES TO SEE > MAYA SITES > Nim Li Punit

NIM LI PUNIT

Nim Li Punit is one of the smaller Maya sites well known for the large amount of stele found there. Large Stelae with head dressNim Li Punit inherited it's name from a carving on the longest of the site's twenty-six stele, depicting a figure wearing a large headdress. In the Maya Kekchi language, Nim Li Punit means "the big hat".

Nim Li Punit lies approximately 5 kilometers off the Southern Highway, near the villages of Indian Creek and Golden Stream. Access to the site follows a fairly steep, hilly, dirt road bordered by tall cohune palms and towering trees draped with flowing vines.

Upon reaching the top of a ridge, the parking lot is only a few yards away from the visitor center. Two small, modern, white concrete buildings with green tile roofs, are situated on the top of a slope. These two visitor centers, which are artistically built with huge stone pieces, black corrugated iron railings and old fashioned wooden doors with glass panes, blend in naturally with the surroundings.

Inside, many precious artifacts are on display. Several displays on the surrounding walls provide information and pictures about the customs, dress, food, dance, and language of the Maya people.

View of southern plain
View of Southern Plain from Nim Li Punit

The view from the center is beautiful with the southern coastal plains laid out to the east. The narrow entrance road below is clearly marked with white stones, which disappear into thick jungle in the distance.

Nim Li Punit is set in the foothills of the Maya Mountains, within the drainage basin of the Rio Grande. From the highest point of the site, at an elevation of 67 meters(219 feet), the Caribbean Sea is visible on a clear day. Hours can be spent in enjoying the beauty of the site. The thousand year old ruins are covered with a layer of bright green moss. The well-kept grounds have large trees with thick trunks and huge canopies, making this a perfect place for picnicking. Birds sing all day long and the cool breeze rustles through the trees above, making leaves occasionally float to the ground.

Stelae Plaza

The true beauty of the site is characterized by modifications of the naturally hilly landscape-the terracing and filling of hill slopes throughout the site to create platforms and plazas. A number of distinct trails linking each group are lined with poles and covered with a layer of white pebbles.

The site is composed of three main areas designated as the west group, the east group, and the south group. The West group is separated from the rest of the site by a small seasonal creek. This group may have served as an access route to the city in ancient times. It consists of a upper and lower terrace with large plazas on each level.

Map of Nim Li Punit (Click for large version 177k)

The South group is comprised of two of the most fascinating complexes at Nim Li Punit-Plaza of the Royal Tombs and Plaza of the Stellae. Three tombs were excavated in the Plaza of the Royal Tombs in the residential area of the royal family. In the Plaza of the Stellae, 26 stone monuments were found. These stone monuments were used to commemorate and record important political events such as alliances, wars and battles, family trees, and visits from official delegations from surrounding cities.

The ballcourt is situated at the midpoint between the south group and the east group and consists of two mounds with a rectangular space between them. At the center of the space is a ball court marker. The rules of the game are not known, but it is clear that the movements of the ball represents the sun, moon, and other celestial bodies.

Ball court at Nim Li Punit
Ball Court

The east group is an assemblage of buildings that may function as an astronomical observatory. A long structure of terraces, arranged north to south facing west, provide a fixed location for observing the sun, moon, and stars.

The site's strategic location between the mountains and the sea coast allowed ancient city dwellers to engage in trade with cities, villages, and other communities near and far. It is believed that the inhabitants of Nim Li Punit mainly focused on maintaining political and religious alliances. The large number of stele along with the presence of the East Group assemblage and a ball court indicate that the site had some prominence in the social and religious life of the ancient Maya of Southern Belize.



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