Tikal National Park
The ancient city of Tikal is located in the north of Guatemala, in the center of the department of Peten, and is known as the “Place of the Voices.” Time has immortalized this place as a religious and cultural center, transmitting the messages of the ancient Maya through the sculpted hieroglyphs in calcite stone, the unique architecture, and remains of multicolored painted ceramics.
In 1955 Tikal was declared a National Park and later acquired the rank of National Monument for its extraordinary cultural richness and the immense variety of flora and fauna species.
Following these parameters, UNESCO named Tikal as Cultural World Heritage in 1979. Later it was assigned the category of the nuclear zone within the Maya Biosphere Reserve, a vast region on northern Guatemala confined to the protection of nature and other archaeological centers of the Maya civilization.
The area where the remains of architecture are found occupies practically the center of 576 square kilometers that embraces the Tikal National Park. Here you can explore one of the most famous pyramids and palaces of this Maya metropolis. Furthermore, you will be able to access and learn about the protected wildlife, which includes mammals, birds and reptiles, beneath the enormous variety of trees and plants that fill the sylvan richness of the region.
The existence of this city was known in the modern world soon after the first official survey of the Guatemalan Government in 1848. It occurred under Colonel Modesto Mendez and Ambrosio Tutz’s direction, Corregidor and governor of Peten. Since then, researches from all over the world have arrived to study its remains, standing out the names of Maudslay (1881), Maler (1895), Tozzer (1910), Morley (1914) and Shook (1937).
The first scientific project began in 1956 and was directed by an archaeologist from the University of Pennsylvania.
Since 1964 the government of Guatemala has been involved in a restoration program for temples in the central plaza and research on the Palacio de las Acanaladuras, the Mundo Perdido complex, the North Zone structures and other areas that you will visit.
Starting in 1991, a cooperation agreement was signed between the countries of Guatemala and Spain for the conservation of temples I and V, which concluded in the year 2000.
Tikal is the most monumental and most significant site of the Maya lowlands. It holds an extension of 16 square kilometers, where more than 4000 houses, palaces, pyramids, ball courts and sweat houses were built. Calculations are that in its most splendorous time hosted from 90,000 to 120, 000 inhabitants.
Its first inhabitants founded a little village around 800 BC and displayed two groups of dwellings. One in the area known today as “Mundo Perdido” and the other in the “North Acropolis.” Around 300 BC, Tikal was already considered a prestigious city in distant places. This was due to visits from merchants and the presence of a centralized government with a ruler who also held sacerdotal power.
The epoch of significant splendor was between 250-900 AD when Tikal was governed by grand sovereigns, who extended their territory and frontiers, conquered new towns, increased their relationships with settlements in central Mexico, Chiapas, Yucatan, Belize and the highlands of Guatemala.
The heart of the site is comprised of various ceremonial, administrative and residential compounds, which intercommunicate each other through ample avenues. Outstanding are the North, South and Central Acropolis, Great Plaza, Mundo Perdido, Siete Templos, Palacio de las Acanaladuras, Group P, Complex of the Twin Pyramids, East and West Plaza, and others, which display private shrines and residential palaces. Other compounds have farming areas and “Chultunes,” which are big holes cut into calcite bedrock to store grains.
In Tikal, the stylized and high temples stand out, which are complemented with roof combs that serve s elegant completion for the uppermost part of their architecture. They are portraits of governors who ordered the construction of these buildings and were sculpted and displayed toward the sky in demonstration of their divine sovereignty.
Stelae and altars have been found across the site, together with plastered masks decorating the facades of the buildings which carry ideological messages. The integration of the plastic expression of the mask with the architectural compounds is evident and the use of paint displays a very singular artistic dialog.
Also, there are open spaces for the plazas, which formed a significant scenario prepared to perform the political and religious events in the form of an enormous theater for the Gods. The Temples and pyramids reprint symbolically the sacred mountains where the Gods create the world and the human being.
From these places, the Maya observed for centuries the stars in the sky for the perfection of the solar and lunar calendar and the cycle of Venus.
Death and the belief and an afterlife were fundamental for the Maya. This is illustrated in the presence of offerings that accompanied the corpse. They consisted of stone tools and ceramic vessels containing food and beverages to be used on the long voyage to another world.
These vessels reflect much of their culture and religious beliefs. So do the use of clay modeling and the application of red, orange, black, cream, green, pink, white, and blue colors. It has to be emphasized that the blue color obtained by the Mayas is unique in
This is due partly to the extraordinary care developed in the creation of a great cultural treasure, now disperses in the tropical forest. You may observe this on the artifacts displayed at the site museums, where ceremonial vases and plates with religious scenes, dances, offerings, and others convey high messages and preserve great plastic representation.
Tikal was abandoned after 900 AD, but it was not forgotten by the inhabitant who occupied nearby villages as they came here to perform their ceremonies. Sometime during the XVI century, a woman was buried in the summit of the temple I or the Temple of the Giant Jaguar. Historical accounts mention Fray Andres de Avendaño passing nearby in 1696 when he was escaping from Tayasal, which probably the first European describing this place in his reports.