Land of the Maya

The Majestic Maya Mountains

Discovered in 1984, Uxbenka ("Ancient Place") is noted for its more than 20 stelae, at least 7 of which are carved. One of these carved stelae is dated to the Early Classic Period, an otherwise non-existent date in Southern Belize, and a rare date for stelae in all the Maya area. The site itself sits on a ridge overlooking the beautiful Maya Village of Santa Cruz and affording a grand panoramic view of the foothills and valleys of the Maya Mountains. This archaeological site is mostly unexcavated. Recent expeditions found that this site is in fact much bigger than what archaeologists though originally, spreading over several mountains.

Uxbenka does not possess the large scale architecture of Lubaantun nor the high degree of preservation of carved monuments of Nim Li Punit. However, the practice of transforming hills by facing and terracing them such that they appear wholly man-made is particularly striking here and is almost exclusively a feature of the Maya Sites in southern Belize. Uxbenka is the earliest known Maya polity in the Toledo District, with evidence of occupation dating to the Early Classic period.

Uxbenka is a small ceremonial center located just outside the village of Santa Cruz, situated about 3 miles west of San Antonio Village. Visiting Uxbenka feels more like an expedition since it is needed to “machete-chop” your way in order to walk around the site. A local guide or someone from a nearby village who knows the site’s information and history is recommended.

The hill on which Uxbenka is constructed overlooks the countryside for at least five miles around. In order to reach Uxbenka travel west from San Antonio, towards Santa Cruz village, reaching Uxbenka 1/3 mile before entering Santa Cruz. Vegetation along the way varies between jungle foliage and milpa crops; streams provide the chance to bathe en route. There are no facilities at the site itself.