Ancient Tikal Guatemala

tklIn the dense jungles which cover the northern part of Guatemala in Central America a major city, one which was entirely unknown to the rest of the world, once flourished. This was Pre-Columbian America during the reign of the Mayans, and the city we now know as Tikal flourished for almost one thousand years.

There is archaeological evidence to suggest that Tikal was first settled in about the 4th century BC, but it was at its most powerful from about 700 years, from 200AD until 900AD when the city was abandoned and the jungle reclaimed the city as its own.

Tikal is huge, covering an area greater than 16 square kilometres (6.2 sq miles) in which about 3000 structures have been either revealed or identified. It is the largest excavated site in the American continent and is Guatemala’s most famous cultural and natural preserve.

Although there had long been rumours of an ancient civilisation having flourished in the region, the jungle-covered site was first discovered in 1848 by an itinerant worker who was seeking to collect gum from trees.

The city was built from limestone and some of its temples a very impressive indeed, towering over 70 metres (230 ft) in height. Within the complex are large royal palaces, pyramids, administrative buildings, a jail and ball courts where games were held.

Tikal was a fully functioning city, complete with its own purpose-built water system of reservoirs and canals which ferried water to various parts of the complex. Four massive causeways linked various parts of the city. These elevated roads provided permanent passageways during times of heavy rain when the low parts of the complex would flood.

At the heart of the complex was a huge central plaza that was flanked by two tall pyramid temples, nearby is a number of palaces and many other temples. It is best to tour the site with a professional guide so as to gain a full understanding of the purpose of the various buildings, and of the history behind the complex.

The city has been incorporated into Tikal National Park, which is in the Petén region of Guatemala. The closest airport is at the city of Flores about 30 kilometres away, and shuttle buses to the complex leave at regular intervals throughout the day.

The excavation of the site is still a work in progress as only about 15% of the total site, which is estimated to cover about 60 square kilometres, has been either excavated or studied.

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