THE MAGNIFICENT STONE WOMAN
Xunantunich Mayan Temple
Xunantunich is located high atop a ridge above the Mopan River, near to the Guatemalan border. Xunantunich means “Stone Woman” in the Maya language, but like many names given to Maya archaeological sites, is a modern name; the ancient name is not known. The tallest temple is the 130 foot “El Castillo,” which is large by Mayan standards and is only exceeded by the Caana pyramid at Caracol. Two unique stucco friezes face the east and west sides of the upper portion of the pyramid.
The “Stone Woman” refers to the ghost of a woman claimed by several people to inhabit the site. When she is seen, she is completely dressed in white with fire-red glowing eyes. She usually appears in front of El Castillo; ascends up the stone stairs and disappears into a stone wall. Many stories have sprung up about her, but nothing is really known.
Most of the structures at Xunantunich date from the Maya Classic Era, about 200 to 600 BC. It appears that some structures were damaged by an earthquake while they were occupied; this earthquake may have been a reason for the site’s being abandoned.
The site is reached by crossing the River Mopan on a hand-cranked auto ferry, one of very few still in existence. (Be sure and watch for Iguanas at the river, there are many very old ones that literally hang about, enjoying the sun — and checking out the tourists.)