Freedom8 Mesoamerica




   

Tikal
can be reached by air out of Flores. There are also buses from Guatemala City to Flores. At its peak some 1,500 years ago, Tikal was home to an estimated 100,000 Maya and it was one of the more important urban center of its time. This is evident in the more than 3,000 structures extending over six square miles. The visitor who comes to Tikal, will be dazzled by the architectural immensity of its temples. Its size is intimidating, its setting lush and teeming with wildlife. Standing back and just looking at the immensity of it all can be quite breath taking. Around the Great Plaza is the Temple of the Giant Jaguar which reaches a height of over 170 feet. This Temple is the tomb of a high priest, buried with hundreds of offerings like vases, jade and so on. The sanctuary for worship at the top of the structure sits on a nine-tiered pyramid. Nearby is The Temple of Masks, which has a flat form and reaches 139 feet. Between these two temples is a courtyard which covers two-and-a-half acres, and its original floor goes back to 150 years before Christ. Two palace complexes can also be found there. The ruins of Tikal include many other buildings, among them a temple that climbs to about 200 feet. Tikal is one of the Mayan ruins that has supplied researchers with abundant information. So much so, in fact, that a large museum has been erected at the site to house ceramics, jade carvings, hardwood carvings and more than 100,000 tools, objects of worship and other decorations. About 200 stelae have been discovered in Tikal. One is marked with the oldest long-count inscription of 292 B.C. Objects from Tikal can also be viewed in Guatemala City.
Tikal is also the refuge for most of the animals in Guatemala, and it is a place where they can be easily seen. Spider and howler monkeys are visible to the visitor who, with a bit of luck, will also be able to see red coatis, raccoons, white-tailed deer, toucans, parrots, macaws, humming birds, and rare falcons such as the orange breast falcon. Reptiles, in particular snakes, are also abundant.
A ten-square-mile map (26 sq. km.) of the center of Tikal has been drawn, and it shows 3,000 separate constructions: temples, plazas, sanctuaries, ceremonial platforms, small and medium-size residences, ball courts, terraces, and roads. Concentrated in and around the ceremonial zone are more than 200 stone monuments: sculptures, flat stelae, and altars, to be concise. Such statistics are a mere suggestion of the magnitude and richness of Tikal, especially when one realizes that only a small portion of the site has been excavated. The massive ruins of Tikal are centered in Tikal National Park. This park of 222 square miles (576 sq. km.) is full of roads and paths leading to all the main archaeological sites.
The Great Plaza is the heart of the ancient city; four great structures surround it. This ceremonial center was used for almost a millenium, even after Tikal was abandoned. The Plaza of the Great Pyramid is one of the oldest monument groups in the city of Tikal, which was built beginning in the late Preclassic period.
Tikal's architecture, science, and art developed mainly between the 3rd century B.C. and the 4th century A.D. In the West Plaza, there are no restored buildings. The inhabitants of the Postclassic period, who rebuilt a great portion of the earliest buildings in the rest of the city, simply added several stelae and altars to the series of late Classic period temples already there.
In the East Plaza, where the Méndez and Maler roads end, Temple 5D-38 and Structure 5D-43, characterized by its Talud-Tabler style, can be seen, along with the unrestored ball game and market constructions. The Plaza of the Great Pyramid, or the Lost World, owes its importance to the presence of the oldest visible building in Tikal, named the Great Pyramid. The Plaza of the Seven Temples, lying east of the Plaza of the Great Pyramid, dates to the Preclassic period and contains three ball-game areas and the still unexcavated Southern Acropolis. The principal temples are described below. Temple I, of the Great Jaguar: closing the Great Plaza on the east, the temple is 148 feet high (45 m.), and was built around 700 A.D.. Temple II, of the Masks: this temple forms the Great Plaza's west side and is 125 feet high (38 m.).
Temple III, of the Great Priest: located west of Temple II, it is about 165 feet high (50 m.), and it was built around 810 A.D.. An original wood-carved lintel remains with a central figure dressed in a jaguar skin. Temple IV, of the Two-headed Serpent, is situated west of the Great Plaza, and at 213 feet (65 m.), is the highest structure of Tikal. Visitors can go up to the base of the cresting and enjoy a beautiful view of Tikal. Temple V, to the south of the Central Acropolis, is 187 feet high (57 m.) and was built around 750 A.D.. Temple VI, of the Inscriptions, lies at the far south end of the Méndez road. Its cresting contains the longest hieroglyphic text in Tikal. In front of the temple are Stela 21 and Altar 9. Currently in Tikal there are three groups of buildings, each of which have been named an acropolis.
The North Acropolis is located north of the Great Plaza. Diverse ceremonial structures, as well as the figureheads of Structure 5D-33, can be observed there. The Central Acropolis, south of the Great Plaza, holds residential and administrative structures: buildings with several rooms and levels like the Palace of the Stormy Sky, Maler Palace, and the Five Stories Palace. The southern border is formed by the palace's reservoir or watering hole.
The South Acropolis is a zone which still has not been investigated. It lies between Temple V and the Plaza of the Seven Temples. Other places of interest: The Palace of the Bat, also called the Palace of Windows, is the only restored building, although the second floor disappeared after the city was abandoned. Complex N and Stela 16 are twin pyramids with a perfect bas-relief of Ah Cacau and a picture and text referring to his wife at the bottom of an altar.