Nim Li Punit may be one of the smallest Maya sites ever discovered in Belize, but its name translated from the local Mayan dialect means “Big Hat.” Although no one knows its ancient name, the city of Nim Li Punit is named after a carved figure found at the site wearing a big headdress.
Nim Li Punit is located in southern Belize in the Toledo District. To get to Nim Li Punit, take the Southern Highway 25 miles north from Punta Gorda or 50 miles south of Belmopan until you reach the turnoff at the villages of Indian Creek and Golden Stream. Follow the dirt road about 5 kilometers until you reach the turn off for Nim Li Punit.
For visitors arriving by ground transportation, you’ll be dropped off at the visitor center. Inside, you’ll see an elegant building made from local materials along with artifacts found at the site. The visitor center also has displays depicting the language, food, dance, and other cultural characteristics of the Maya.
Some of the most interesting monuments found in Nim Li Punit are the 26 stelae or large columns of stone, many of which are intricately carved with Maya hieroglyphs and pictures. Most of the stelae were found in an enormous square now called the Plaza of the Stelae.
Nim Li Punit was founded more than 2,500 years ago. Today, the remains of three plazas have been excavated, including several pyramids, one of which reaches 12.2 meters (40 feet) in height. Other interesting attractions include one of the best-preserved Maya ball courts ever found, completely intact and ready for a game.
Closer examination of the buildings in Nim Li Punit will reveal that they are precisely aligned according to Maya beliefs about the order of the universe, with the earth at its center. To the north, a collection of shrines and funerary monuments represents the sky world.
At the end of the terrace called Structure One, the ancient Maya built a series of monuments that were used to take incredibly precise astronomical calculations. The Maya calendar consisted of 365 days divided into 18 months, each with 20 days, and an “extra” month that had just five days.
Archeologists believe that Nim Li Punit was once part of the territory belonging to an ancient Maya dynasty that also ruled nearby cities like Uxbenka, Pusilha, and Lubaantun.
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