Not to be confused with Stella from A Streetcar Named Desire, a stela was part of the ancient Mayan culture far before Marlon Brando made the name unforgettable in popular culture.

A stela is a unique monument, huge, tall stone slab with carvings telling a story on each side. Stories are told about Mayan Kingships and their successes and hardships. The Maya consider the stela as te tun “tree stone”. The core purpose of the stela was to glorify the king. The inscriptions on the stela contain pictures of their royal ruler and his actions are described using hieroglyphic script. Even if the individual depicted on the stela is not the king himself the scripts and scenes usually relate to the king. The stories told were of the king’s importance, power, wealth and ancestry. Often you will see symbols of military and divine power. 

Maya stelae were often arranged in formations of lines or other arrangements in the ceremonial centre of the city. When a new king came into power the old stelae (plural) would be buried and replaced with new ones. But if the Maya city was overthrown by a rival those standing stale would be destroyed as part of their victory.

Stelae were considered holy and to have a divine soul-like essence that almost made them living beings. So, when you visit Caracol you can simply time-travel back to the Mayan times and imagine the happening based on what you see on any of the stelas.

Archaeological excavations recovered a huge variety of stelas. And surrounding them are small circular-type stones that almost look like alters. Archaeologists believe that these alters served as a ritual pedestal for incense burners and other offerings.

Twenty-five stela’s have been unearthed at Caracol and they are just standing there, waiting for you to visit to see their story.

Some important stelae at Caracol include:

Stela 3 and 71

Contained accounts of Yahaw Te’s son, K’an II which was the conquest of Naranjo in Guatemala. Stela 3 was found broken in two major fragments.

Stela 10 

Has the last record date at Caracol 859 AD, dated, which commemorated the last king, Ruler XIII.  By the early part of the tenth century Caracol experiences the same collapse as found at other sites. 

Stela 11

It dates to the beginning of the ninth century AD. It portrayed a dwarf presenting a manikin scepter to Caracol’s terminal classic kings known as Mah Kin ‘ah Hok Kauil. It also mentions eight captive’s warfare events credited to K’ Inich Joy K’awil.

Caracol Maya Site, Belize

Stela 21 

Lasting from 702 to 789 (Ballcourt Marker 3) lacks any hieroglyphic texts. This period is correlated with an increase in site wide prosperity. 

A Carcaol trip with Hidden Valley is a must for any culture seeker, adventure buff, or someone that wants to learn more about Maya history.

Bottom line, there is nowhere else in the world you can see this kind of history. With so many ancient teachings, be sure to hire a tour guide that knows all about the Mayan culture and you should see it as part of your itinerary from Hidden Valley Inn.