Tikal, incredible Mayan Ruins in Guatemala

If you are into archeological things and enjoy adventure trips, there are several options in Central America, a lot of ancient sites to visit, all of them with their own history.

The Mayan culture took its development in Central America many centuries ago, and they left some very interesting sites, temples and ruins to remember their culture forever and ever. Mayan ruins, they are incredible!. In former posts I talked about some other Mayan ruins in Central America, I have a post on this same site about Mayan Ruins in Copan, Honduras. But if you are looking for Mayan ruins to visit, you should also travel to Tikal in Guatemala, another great and historical mayan city.

Let me give you a quick background and facts about Tikal, it could be very helpful to know some interesting things about this incredible place.

Tikal is the largest of the ancient ruined cities of the Maya civilization. It is located in the El Petén department of Guatemala. Now part of Guatemala's Tikal National Park, it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a popular tourist spot.The closest large towns are Flores and Santa Elena, about 30 kilometers away.

The ruins lay in the middle of the rainforest. Some trees at the Tikal park include gigantic ceiba (Ceiba pentandra) the sacred tree of the Maya; tropical cedar (Cedrela odorata), and mahogany (Swietenia). Regarding the fauna, agouti, spider monkeys, howler monkeys, ocellated turkeys, guans, toucans, green parrots and leaf-cutting ants can be seen there regularly. Jaguars and coatis are said to roam in the park.

Tikal in the Classic era
Tikal was one of the major cultural and population centers of the Maya civilization. Monumental architecture was built here as early as the 4th century BC. The city was at its height in the Maya Classic Period, approximately 200 AD to 850 AD, after which no new major monuments were built, some of the palaces of the elite were burned, and the population gradually declined until the site was abandoned by the end of the 10th century.

The name "Tikal" means "Place of Voices" or "Place of Tongues" in Maya, which may be an ancient name for the city, although the ancient hieroglyphs usually refer to it as Mutal or Yax Mutal, meaning "Green Bundle", and perhaps metaphorically "First Prophecy". Scholars estimate that at its peak its population was between 100,000 -- 200,000

The Site
The site presents hundreds of significant ancient buildings, only a fraction of which have been excavated in the decades of archeological work. The most prominent surviving buildings include six very large step pyramids supporting temples on their tops. They were numbered geographically by early explorers. They were built during the city's height from the late 7th and early 9th century. Temple I was built around 695; Temple III in 810; The largest, Temple-pyramid IV, some 72 meters (230 feet) high, was dedicated in 720. Temple V is from about 750. Temple VI was dedicated in 766.

The ancient city also has the remains of royal palaces, in addition to a number of smaller pyramids, palaces, residences, and inscribed stone monuments. There is even a building which seemed to have been a jail, originally with wooden bars across the windows and doors. There are also several courts for playing the Mesoamerican ballgame.

The residential area of Tikal covers an estimated 60 square km (23 square miles), much of which has not yet been cleared or excavated. Some of the pyramids of Tikal are over 60 meters high (200 feet).

A huge set of earthworks has been discovered ringing Tikal with a 6 meter wide trench behind a rampart. Only some 9km of it has been mapped; it may have enclosed an area of some 125 km square.

The Basics
During the classic period, from 250 to 550 a.d., Tikal was home to more than 150,000 people and covered over 20 square miles. Sometime in the ninth century, fo what is now believed to be a combination of cultural and environmental reasons, the city was abandoned to the jungle - the last date carved into the monuments was 869 a.d.

Although locals probably always knew of the ruins, Tikal was not officially "rediscovered" until 1848 when an expedition was made to the site by members of the Peten government. They found temples, palaces, and pyramids covered with a thousand years worth of tropical growth - 200 foot temples were capped with 175 foot trees. In the twentieth century mammoth excavations and reconstruction's have been undertaken through a collaborative effort between the Guatemalan government and several U.S. universities. Still, only a small amount of the metropolis has been released from its living tomb.

In the last twenty years dramatic breakthroughs in decoding the rotund and sometimes menacing Mayan hieroglyphs have delivered to us from the previously mute monuments a culture of kings and queens and priests and blood, of ritulised warfare and enemy city-states, of massive construction and mass desertion, of complex astronomical as well as mathematical knowledge - in short, one of the most advanced civilisations of the ancient world, Old or New.

The abandonment of Tikal and other classic Mayan cities at the end of the first millennium is still not completely understood - the most highly regarded theories blame a combination of factors including environmental destruction, underclass rebellion, famine, and theocratic doomsaying. And, contrary to a dimestore para-science rumor, the Maya did not disappear, they migrated west to the highlands where, after five centuries of Spanish rule, they still weave their own clothing and practice the ancient rituals.

Well, there is a lot to talk about Tikal and the Mayan culture, I could write pages and pages about it. I suggest you take time to visit someday this beautiful and misterious place. It's not only the ruins, is also the region, the jungle, the landscapes, there is a national park, the name is Tikal National Park with a lot of things to see and many things yet to be discovered.

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