Xunantunich meaning “maiden of the rock” or “stone woman” in Maya, and like many names given to Maya archeological sites is a modern name, the current name being presently unknown. The “Stone Woman” refers to the ghost of a woman claimed by many people to inhabit the site. She is dressed in white and has fiery red eyes. She usually appears in front of El Castillo, ascends the stairs and disappears into a stone wall.
Xunantunich is situated on the Western Highway across the river from the village of San Jose Succotz. It can be reached by ferry daily between 8 am and 5 pm. This site is less than one mile from some lovely rapids of the Mopan River and provides an impressive view of the entire river valley.
Xunantunich served as a Maya civic ceremonial center in the Late and Terminal Classic Periods to the Belize Valley region. At that time, when the region was at its peak, it is estimated that 200,000 people lived in Belize. The site core occupies only 300 square meters but the periphery covers several square kilometers. Recent investigations by Dr. Richard Leventhal of the University of California, Los Angeles and Dr. Wendy Ashmore from the University of Pennsylvania indicate that Xunantunich may be even more extensive than previously thought. In Group A, Structure A-6 (El Castillo) rises 130 feet above plaza level making it one of the tallest buildings in Belize. On this structure there are two temples. The lower temple is famous for its large stucco frieze. A mask with larger ears probably represents the sun god. Next to this mask, there is a moon sign with a border of signs representing Venus.