16th century Catholic church which gave the name "Indian Church" to this area of Belize

Lamanai: Indian Church

Dec. 30, 1997


David Pendergast, who excavated the site from 1974 through 1986 under the auspices of the Royal Ontario Museum, writes: "Our choice of the site for intensive investigation was based on the presence there of a 16th-century secular Catholic church, the existence of which was first noted by Castells, who incorrectly identified the structure as Pre-Columbian. Castells' description of the church was, unhappily, the basis for Thompson's mention of a structure with round portal columns at the site, possibly reflecting Central Mexican influence in Western Belize.

Though the church had been the source of some confusion, its presence demonstrated that Lamanai was inhabited in early historical times, and the possibility clearly existed that the occupation in that period represented the upper end of a continuum from the Classic (3rd to early 10th centuries A.C.) or earlier. There was ample evidence, in the form of obviously complex, large structural remains, to indicate that the site had probably been an important center during the Classic, so that excavation could be expected to provide insights into developments in the Central Maya Lowlands over a considerable period.

Though the locale is generally known in Belize as Indian Church, a name apparently coined in the early 19th century, Lamanai is in fact one of the very few Maya sites for which the ancient name is recorded. It appears on a church list of 1582, and the site was visited and very sketchily described by Fathers Bartolome de Fuensalida and Juan de Orbita in 1618."

Pendergast, Journal of Field Archaeology 8:1 29-30