Parque nacional Tikal, Tikal, Guatemala
GPS: 17.222310394585, -89.623501998729
Tikal is one of Guatemala’s major archaeological sites, along with the ruins of Quiriguá, the forgotten city of Naachtun and the remains of Iximche. Meaning “at the waterhole”, this flourishing city has established itself as the largest Mayan metropolis in all of Central America and is one of the most important pre-Columbian cities. Under the cultural, artistic and architectural influence of the powerful Teotihuacan (Mexico) from the end of the 4th century onwards, Tikal was the regional capital of the Maya Lowlands.
The pre-Columbian site of Tikal is located in a remote area of the department of El Petén. It is lost in the middle of the tropical jungle of the Tikal National Park, a protected natural area of great biological richness, created in 1955 on an area of 570 km². As the regional capital, this Mayan city is a religious, economic and political centre of a vast kingdom. It participated in many military conquests of other Mayan city-states between the 3rd and 9th centuries. At its peak, the city of Tikal covered a considerable territory. It had an influence on the neighbouring regions of Yucatán (Mexico), Honduras (in its western part), Belize (within the Maya Mountains) and El Salvador (in the centre and west of the country). In the middle of the 10th century, Tikal was inexplicably abandoned and its civilization collapsed and then disappeared. Deforestation, drought, depletion of resources, the collapse of trade or an uprising of the people against its rulers could be the cause of its brutal fall. There followed a long period of vacancy of the site for about 1,000 years before Tikal was rediscovered in the mid-19th century (even though the local people had known of its existence for a long time). Completely buried under a sumptuous vegetation, the city quickly earned its nickname of the “Lost World complex”.
The British explorer Alfred Maudslay, the Austrian-German archaeologist Teobert Maler and the Swiss botanist Gustave Bernoulli were the first Europeans to study the Mayan remains of northern Petén at the end of the 19th century. The archaeological heritage of Tikal contains several thousand structures including fortresses, pyramids, acropolis, temples, palaces, residential areas, water reservoirs, squares and ballcourts of great historical interest. The main purpose of these constructions is to honour the ancient Mayan kings (a total of 33 rulers have succeeded each other in the dynastic history of Tikal). At the time of their construction, some monuments such as Temple IV and V represent the tallest buildings in the Americas and the New World (they are over 60 metres high). Numerous remains such as shrines, tombs, stelae and burials underline the importance of this ancient ceremonial centre for the Mayan civilization.