Friday, September 30, 2022

Altun Ha and The Community Baboon Sanctuary.

I discovered that I came to Belize during the rainy season which means we've had rains about every other day although today we had a downpour around lunch time rather than at night.  Of course, hurricane Ian just hit Florida, after doing significant damage to Cuba.  The other day, I took a tour to the local Mayan ruins in the morning and stopped for a visit at the community baboon sanctuary.  Both places were awesome.

The ruins are called Altun Ha which is a short drive outside of Belize City.  This was not a major site but most likely a small town with 8,000 to 10,000 people.  

This is the house for multiple generations of the leader.  Each level one generations living level.  When the current ruler died, the inheriting son made another level.  There are multiple buildings around the immediate area, some would house the people who served the rulers, and some would be for the people who were in the upper classes.  

In this area is a building straight across from this building which might have been for either his wife or for a woman who ruled but they are not sure.  

As this site was dug out, they found over 500 pieces of jade including a solid jade head.  The one they show at the site is actually a reproduction because the jade head was taken to Canada by the person who dug it up back in the 1920's.  The government is trying to get it back but who knows.

This is the temple associated with the community.  There are some great relief pictures on both sides of the lower level and in the middle.  The Mayans tended to like the numbers 9 and 13 and so much of their building and legends rely on those numbers.  Throughout the buildings, one sees doors and other things that are either 9 or 13.  

In fact, one belief they have is to bury the ruler and others with their tools so they can fight through nine levels of the equivalent of hell in order to move on to their new life.

This phot is take from the top of the temple, looking out on the ground where the people gathered to listen to their ruler who was at the top of the temple.  The view from up there is fantastic and just beautiful.  

To get to the top, there are stairs on each side so you climb up one set and down the others.  One does not get to go straight up the middle because they are trying to preserve the ruins.

Although I thought the middle was used for sports events, the guide told me no, they aren't. It was for meetings.
If you look carefully in the picture to the right, you can see the rulers home I had in a picture above.  The living area was on one side and the public gathering area was on the left.  

The temple I am on, is dedicated to the sun god.  Due to the size of the ruins, archeologists believe it was a smaller place because of the size.  Later in the week, I'm heading off to see the big one which is supposed to be a major Mayan site.

After this visit, we stopped for lunch at a small restaurant just outside the ruins.  The food was great.

From there we drove a short bit and went to the Community Baboon Sanctuary.  This sanctuary houses Black Howler Monkeys and not baboons but the British called the monkey's baboons and it kind of stuck.  This sanctuary is actually run by the local villagers without governmental support.

The effort began back in 1981 when two villages got together to set aside strips of land for the monkey's. Around 1986, another 6 villages joined in the effort so that there was now 20 square miles of natural jungle for the animals.  They believe there are 4,000 to 5,000 black howler monkey's in the area.

This way, the local residents are able to do their thing while the monkey's have access to their native habitat and can live nicely.  

The tour managed to find a family of black howler monkey's in the trees.  There is one alpha male, three to four females, and a bunch of children.  Usually, the units have between 2 and 11 members.

Usually the older children take care of the younger ones so they acquire the skills they need to be parents.  When the females are mature after three to four years, they leave the family unit for another unit.  When males mature between six and ten years, they leave to start their own unit.

The alpha male is the one who usually howls and his howl has been recorded as loud as 90 decibels. We heard him make noise but thank goodness it wasn't that loud.  

We saw the alpha, a female, an older child with a baby on its back, and a small one on it's own.  The small one, got on the ground and tried to play with one of the guides but then the male let loose with a howl and the little one scampered up the tree.  

I hope you enjoyed these photos.  Let me know what you think, I'd love to hear.  Have a great day

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