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Lamanai  

H. Stanley Loten

[Indian Church]

Site of extensive Pre-Columbian Maya settlement in northern Belize, on a low ridge on the west shore of the New River Lagoon at its northern end, where the lagoon drains northwards along a winding jungle river. It is a commanding location that has obvious strategic advantage for the control and exploitation of the river passage north to Chetumal Bay. Archaeological excavations, which have sampled approximately 10% of the structures mapped, indicate that the site was occupied continuously from the middle Pre-Classic period (c. 1000–c. 300 bc) until contact with the Spaniards in 1521. It was previously known as Indian Church, the name still applied to the general locality of the ancient ruins. A major archaeological project was conducted at Lamanai between 1974 and 1986 under the auspices of the Royal Ontario Museum, directed by David Pendergast of the museum and Stanley Loten of Carleton University, Ottawa.

The monumental ceremonial and élite precinct of Lamanai extends along slightly more than 1 km of the lagoon edge, and the site as a whole appears to be contained within an area of 4.5 sq. km on the higher ground along its shore. Within this area, 718 buildings were recorded, most of which appear to be élite ceremonial structures and residences. Test excavations by ...