Nim Li Punit, is a Maya Classic Period site in the Toledo District of the nation of Belize, located 40 kilometres north of the town of Punta Gorda, at 16° 19' N, 88° 47' 60W. Nim Li Punit is sometimes known as Big Hat or Top Hat; the name is Kekchi Maya language for "Big Hat", referring to the large elaborate head-dress on a stela sculpture found on site depicting one of the site's ancient kings.
Nim Li Punit is a medium sized site from the Maya Classic Period, flourishing from the 5th century AD through the 8th century AD. It consists of structures around three plazas, including several step-pyramids, the tallest being 12.2 meters high. The site has a number of carved stelae illustrating the ancient city's rulers. Several stelae are in an unfinished state, suggesting a sudden halt to work. The site is near Belize's Southern Highway and is open to visitors subject to an admission charge.
The ancient city of Nim Li Punit was laid out in a fashion consistent with other Mayan lowland Classic Era sites, such as Lubaantun, Pusilha and Uxbenka; the latter two of these sites are deemed to have arisen earlier than the former two.
Nim Li Punit is constructed in the Classic Period prototypical geometric form, using large amounts of fill material to achieve expansive level plazas and terraces; furthermore, the arrangement of the major structures emulates the view of the Mayan cosmological world, setting the earth realm at the core, manifested by a dwelling of the ruler. The sky world is exhibited characteristically in the north by shrines and burial structures. The location of the ballcourt is intermediary, illustrating the position of this activity to represent perpetual conflict between the forces of life and death. The ballcourt is so well preserved, it appears ready to host a game.
Nim Li Punit was discovered in 1976 with initial explorations conducted by Norman Hammond of the British Museum-Cambridge University. Hammond produced the first site map and excavated a portion of the central plaza. Next Barbara McLeod of the University of Texas, Austin, produced the first detailed analyses of stelae inscriptions.
In 1983 Richard Levanthal bored test pits and surveyed the site as part of an overall southern Belize Mayan mapping exercise.