Posted by: Johan Normark | December 16, 2009

El Pilar – Xaman Pilar

One and a half month ago I wrote a post on the southern section of the monumental part of El Pilar in western Belize where I worked in 1998, 2000 and 2001. This post describes the northern part of this monumental area.

Directly east of Plaza Faisan that unites Nohol Pilar to the south and Xaman Pilar to the north lies Plaza Escoba. It is has been cut through by the modern El Pilar dirt road. North of this plaza lies Plaza Rosa which has two small pyramids, partly constructed by chert nodules. From Escoba it was possible to enter the northeast corner of Plaza Faisan which is the second largest plaza at El Pilar. Faisan is surrounded by several low platforms. The plaza floor slanted to the west and drained water into a large aguada. It has been argued that Plaza Faisan was a public space due to its low lying topography and non-restricted access.

Xaman Pilar seen from the southwest

North of Plaza Faisan lies several small quadrangles which were groups of buildings enclosing a smaller plaza. Plaza Gumbolimbo is three meters higher than Plaza Faisan. From there is a stairway up to Plaza Ixim which resembles a pool, since its small plaza is surrounded by high platforms and range-structures. On the eastern side lie EP19, a 13 m high and heavily looted pyramidal temple. From the bottom of Plaza Imix there rose a stairway up to the acropolis called H’men Na.

The acropolis consists of several small enclosed plazas and from Faisan there was only one way to this restricted area,. There is an increasing enclosure, restriction and elevation as one proceeds from Faisan to H’men Na. There has been some suggestions that many sites gradually became more and more enclosed throughout the Classic period (von Falkenhausen 1985). The enclosed plazas are: Plaza Hatz (28 x 5m), Plaza Subin (17 x 40m), Plaza Jobo (18 x 7m), Plaza Kibix (4 x 24m) and Plaza Manax (14 x 55m). H’men Na rises 10 m above Plaza Imix. Plaza Jobo has been excavated and it has several rooms with benches and vaults. The highest structure is EP 20 which was 19 m above Plaza Imix and 9 m above Plaza Jobo. Plaza Manax is located at the northern end of the acropolis. North of this plaza it is a steep 10 m drop down to Plaza Lec but there is no visual access (Wernecke 1994:42-43).

Plaza Lec is the northern end of Xaman Pilar. The temple on its eastern side has three rooms. North of this area lies a heavily quarried hill with a major plazuela group on its top. On the west side of the acropolis lies smaller plazas with a rangestructure and a long platform.

The next post on El Pilar will concern the west sections of the site which are are located in Guatemala (Pilar Poniente and Kum). It will also deal with the household compound called Tzunu’un (hummingbird) where I excavated in 1998. The final post will be about the causeways/linear features at the site.


  1. Very interesting job you have. I would do this for free as a hobby.

  2. I have done too much archaeological work for free during my earlier days. I am done with that phase.

  3. It would be interesting to see some photos of the site as well. As usual, your postings are always interesting.

  4. I am too lazy with the photos. I have not been there since 2001 and at that time I only took slides so I need to scan them. My future posts on El Pilar will for sure include some pictures. Otherwise there are pictures (and videos) here:


%d bloggers like this: