Altun Ha, the archaeological site closest to Belize City, was a major Maya culture ceremonial center and the discovery site of Belize’s famous Jade Head.
Altun Ha functioned as a central trading link between the Caribbean coast and Maya centers in the interior during the Maya Classic Period. Two (2) main plazas with roughly 13 Maya temples and residential structures have been excavated here.
A unique feature of this site is the absence of carved stelae, while its most notable artifact is a large jade carving of the Maya sun god “Kinich Ahau.” Weighing almost 10 pounds, this 6-inch carving is the largest carved jade object to be found in any Maya community in the region. A replica of the “Jade Head,” a national treasure, is on display at the Central Bank of Belize, and its likeness is watermarked on all Belizean currency.
Did you know…
The Altun Ha Jade head stands 14.9 cm (6 inches) high and weighs 4.42 kg (9.75 Lbs). The jade from which this artifact was made was imported from ancient mines along the Motagua River valley in eastern Guatemala. Today the jade head is considered the crown jewel of Belize.