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Tikal

Tikal is the ruins of a capital built in the 4th century BC in the Flores rainforest, Petén Department, Petén Basin Region, Guatemala, as one of the largest archaeological sites and urban centers of the Maya civilization. Tikal reached its peak during the Classic Period from 200 to 900 AD as a political, economic and military center, while interacting with territory throughout Mesoamerica.

Tikal National Park is the best site for understanding one of the great Mayan towns with a long list of dynasties, tombs of elites, temples, palaces and monuments. Some evidence suggests Tikal was conquered by Teotihuacan in the 4th century AD and post-Late Classic Period no new large monuments were built, gradual and neglected population decline at the end of the 10th century.

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The core city covers an area of more than 16 sq km (6.2 square miles) covering 3,000 buildings and a 60 sq km (23 sq mile) residential area. The main structure of the site is clustered on higher ground and is connected by a network of roads that span across the swamp. The ruins lie between the tropical rain forests of northern Guatemala where the emergence of a lowland Maya civilization.

Estimates of Tikal populations vary from 10,000 to 90,000 people. The peak population is estimated at 120,000 with a population density of 265 per sq kilometer (689 per sq mile). In an area within a radius of 25 kilometers (16 miles) from the site's core and including several satellite sites, the peak population is estimated at 425,000 with a density of 216 per sq kilometer (515 per sq mile).

The site has been partially restored by the Guatemalan government and the University of Pennsylvania. The architecture is built of limestone and covers the remains of a temple with a height of more than 70 meters (230 feet), a large royal palace, a number of small pyramids, dwellings, administrative buildings, prisons and stone monuments.

Biodiversity

The striking trees of Tikal National Park include the giant kapok (Ceiba pentandra) as the sacred tree for Maya, the tropical cedar (Cedrela odorata) and the Honduran mahogany (Swietenia macrophylla).

Fauna includes Central American agouti (Dasyprocta punctata), white-nosed coati (Nasua narica), gray fox (Urocyon cinereoargenteus), Geoffroy's spider monkey (Ateles geoffroyi), Howler monkeys (Alouatta monotypic), harpy eagle (Harpia harpyja), ocellated turkey (Meleagris ocellata), Leafcutter ant, jaguar (Panthera onca), jaguarundi (Herpailurus yagouaroundi) and cougar (Puma concolor).

Causeways

The sacbeob network or causeways connect different parts of the city within a few kilometers through the urban core connecting the Great Plaza with Temple 4 and the Temple of the Inscriptions. This vast crossroad is built of solid limestone and plaster that helps the daily traffic during the rainy season and also serves as a dam.

Acropolis

The Great Plaza is located at the core of the site flanked by two large temple pyramids in the west and east, while in the north is the North Acropolis and in the south is the Central Acropolis. The construction of this complex begins in the Preclassic Period or about 350 BC and develops into a burial complex for the ruling dynasty of the Classic Age with the addition of a new temple over the older structure.

After 400 AD, a series of high pyramids were added to the 100x80 meter (330 x 260 ft) North Platform. In the 6th century, 8 temple pyramids were added and each had an elaborate roof and the staircase was flanked by masks of the gods. In the 9th century, 43 stelae and 30 altars have been built in the North Acropolis and these 18 monuments are carved with hieroglyphic texts.

South Acropolis next to Temple V on a large basalt platform that covers an area of over 20,000 sq meters (220,000 sq ft). The Plaza of the Seven Temples is to the west of the South Acropolis bordering by a row of almost identical temples, palaces and a ballcourt

Mundo Perdido is next to the Plaza of the Seven Temples as the largest ceremonial complex from the Preclassic period. The complex is governed by large pyramidal groups and was built many times during the history influenced by Teotihuacan in the Mexico Valley.

Temples

Thousands of ancient structures in Tikal and only a small part have been unearthed after decades of archaeological work. The most prominent surviving buildings include 6 large pyramids labeled Temples I - VI each supporting the temple structure at the summit. Some pyramids have a height of more than 60 meters (200 feet). They are numbered sequentially during the site's initial survey and it is estimated that each of these major temples was built in just two years.

Altars, Lintels, Stelae and Burials

The Tikal complex has many altars in which archaeologists labeled Altar 1 - 25, at least 3 lintels, 43 stelae labeled Stelae 1 - 43 and hundreds of noble graves given the title Burial 1 - 198. Ceramic statues were found in many graves that continued added up to Late Classic.

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Location: Tikal, Flores, Petén Department, Petén Basin Region, Guatemala.

Routes and public transport: Flights to Mundo Maya International Airport in Flores City. The tour company has a minibus that will pick you up at the hotel in Flores including a guide or no guide. The journey time to get to Tikal National Park is 75 minutes to 64 kilometers (40 mi).

The minivan also departs from the bus terminal at Santa Elena starting at 6 am with the first return journey at 12.30 pm, this is not recommended because it costs the same but involves a long journey. Buses and minibuses come from all the surrounding area on well maintained roads. Using a taxi has a more expensive fare to be more comfortable.

Advice: The main gate of Tikal National Park opens at 6 am and closes at 6 pm. Map is available outside the Visitor Center or you just take a photo of the map after you've passed the counter. You can also take a map at the airport for free.

Bring food, water and sleeping equipment if you plan to camp in Tikal. For centuries the city was completely covered in forests and the average annual rainfall in Tikal was 1,945 millimeters (76.6 inches). Many people would rather stay in the park and wake up with the forest to the sounds of birds and nature than to the sound of machines in Flores.

At Jaguar Inn, you can enter the forest by hiring a hammock, including insect-netting bed, access to the bathroom and toilet. Sleeping in a hammock is a very comfortable way to sleep. Many locals do it.



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