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Ancient Mayan Cities: Tikal
Posted In: Ancient Civilizations  10/22/11
By: Yona Williams

Around 700 AD, the Mayan city of Tikal thrived in what is known as modern-day Guatemala. Features of the city included five largely built pyramids and the impressive rain forest that surrounded the region. In this article, you will learn more about the history and significance of the city, and of its attractions.

The history of Tikal begins when the first inhabitants appeared during the Middle Formative Period (900 to 300 BC) of Mayan history. At this time, it was a small village that didn’t fully blossom until the Late Formative Period (300 BC to 100 AD) when it became an important ceremonial center with the construction of numerous pyramids and temples. Between 100 and 200 AD, the first ruling dynasty of Tikal was established with Yax Ehb' Xok (known as the First Step Shark).

The peak of the city took place during the Late Classic Period (600 to 900 AD) – reaching the height of population in 700 AD. Tikal was then home to around 10,000 people that resided in the city center. Surrounding areas were occupied by 50,000 more people. The majority of the ruins left behind were constructed during this time period. It was then that the city enjoyed advancements in the arts, architecture, farming, writing and city planning.

Unfortunately, the city as a ceremonial center started to experience a decline after 800 AD. The population took a harsh blow and the regional arts suffered as well. No one is sure what caused this decline to take place, but some researchers believe that changes in the climate and a significant drought played a role. Over time, the Mayan city got lost in the jungle and the region largely forgotten. It lived n in some of the local legends told by native people, but it was no longer a place to call home.

In 1848, the city was rediscovered by a collector named Ambrosio Tut. He started a scholarly investigation of the site. His efforts eventually led to the designation of a National Monument in 1931. It was named a National Park in 1955. The city was even featured in a Star Wars movie in 1977 as a base of the rebels. In 1979, the city received status as a World Heritage Site.

Attractions in Tikal

Visitors come to Tikal to get a glimpse of the past. The Tikal National Park is home to a whopping 3,000 structures – many of which have yet to undergo excavation. There is a lot to see when visiting the site. People come to see the temples, stelae with inscriptions of heiroglyphs, tombs, as well as residential buildings. The main pyramids are found in the central part of the city, where tourists like to branch off and explore the jungles. Other ruins can be found further into the foliage. Visitors are encouraged to come prepared with a map of the park and a compass.


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