Lamanai Maya Ruins
Looming over the west bank of the New River Lagoon, Lamanai Mayan Ruins, or "submerged crocodile," is off the beaten track-perhaps the reason why it thrived for over 3000 years. The city of Lamanai Mayan Ruins began its regional supremacy around 1500 B.C. Extending from the formative years of the Mayan world to the preaching friars of Spanish colonists, Lamanai Mayan Ruins flourished and supported a vast community of farmers, merchants, and traders.
Named for the thriving crocodile population in the nearby New River lagoon, Lamanai's main structures and excavated artifacts exhibit many representations of the famed reptile. Because some of Lamanai's ruins are some of the oldest in Belize dating back to 700 B.C., the site has received more attention than other archaeological sites in the country. Still, of the 700 buildings within the complex, less than five percent have been excavated and explored. Aside from the central pyramid, thick forest has consumed many of the limestone mounds that housed the thousands of Mayan inhabitants. With a population exceeding 35,000 at the height of the city's power, Lamanai's trading influence extended over the borders of present-day Guatamala, Honduras, Mexico, and Belize.
Abnormally high concentrations of corn pollen scattered throughout the area indicate Lamanai Mayan Ruins originated as an agriculturally based settlement. As the Classic Period came to an end in the ninth and tenth centuries, many of the neighboring Mayan cities proceeded through a period of decay to final collapse. Lamanai survived this time of upheaval and continued trade with sites in the northern part of the Yucatan Peninsula on into the Post-Classic Period. Copper, tin, and bronze objects flowed into Lamanai from sources in west Mexico, the Oaxaca Valley, and probably middle Central America. Lamanai also profited from intense immigration from the fringes of nearby cities that were undergoing gradual abandonment.