The Mayan civilization appeared on the American continent two millennia BC. Thanks to their writing, art, architecture, mathematical and astronomical systems, this ancient people made an important contribution to the history of human development. And then civilization fell into decay, leaving, in addition to its cultural heritage, a myriad of questions and mysteries.
Modern Maya, living in Mexico, Guatemala and Honduras, no longer make such stunning inventions, but carefully preserve the legacy of their distant ancestors. Among the numerous Mayan monuments that have survived to this day is Tikal, one of the largest settlements located in the El Peten province of Guatemala and included in the national park of the same name.
Frame from the movie "Apocalypse"
The name "Tikal", which is translated from the Mayan language as "a place where the voices of spirits are heard", was given to this area after its discovery by Europeans in the 1840s. Perhaps the monumental and abandoned complex, full of shadows and memories of its former grandeur, led the researchers into awe, and the local Indians – descendants of the ancient Maya – decided to enhance this impression with an appropriate name.
In fact, in Mayan times and before its desolation, Tikal existed as "Yax Mutul", and this is how it is mentioned in the hieroglyphs of those times. Since the founding of the Mutul kingdom (1-8 centuries AD), Tikal has been its capital (hence the name, which is incomprehensible to us). The largest settlement occupied an area of 60 square kilometers, on which hundreds of stone structures were located.
North Acropolis | airpano.com
Not all of them have been excavated so far! Currently, the cleared area of the ancient city covers only 16 square kilometers, but there is something to see here (it is not for nothing that UNESCO included Tikal in its World Heritage List). In the center are six stepped pyramids with temples on top. The complex included the palaces of the rulers, and the acropolis, and a platform for ritual games, and even a prison.
The vast majority of structures in Tikal do not have their own official names, but are numerical or alphabetic designations. At the same time, the most significant objects of Tikal are now receiving names. So, the 44-meter Pyramid I is also called the Temple of the Great Jaguar, the 38-meter Pyramid II – the Temple of Masks, and the space located in the center of the complex is called the "Gran Plaza" ("Large Square").
Palace of the Great Claw Jaguar | airpano.com
Temple IV of the Two-Headed Serpent | airpano.com
Temple V | airpano.com
Pyramid IV, built in the middle of the 8th century, lies at the very end of the explored area. However, “lying” is not the right word. Pyramid IV, also known as the Temple of the Two-Headed Serpent, rises to a height of 64 meters, being the tallest building in Tikal.
The heyday of the city fell on 600–800 years; its population during this period, according to a number of scientists, could reach 100,000 people. But at the end of the 10th century, life in Tikal froze for reasons that have not yet been clarified, and Tikal was swallowed up by the jungle. However, the Maya were not only outstanding scientists and architects; they are also known as bloodthirsty and brave warriors. The Mutul kingdom experienced a difficult history, full of military victories and defeats. The disappearance of an entire nation is a phenomenon quite characteristic of those times and those customs.
Interestingly, even now, Tikal managed to briefly become the scene of hostilities: the cult film Star Wars was filmed here: in Episode IV (1977), a rebel camp was “located” on the territory of Tikal.
Central square | airpano.com
In December 2012, during the solemn celebration of the "end of the world according to the Mayan calendar", the ruins of Tikal were one of the most important sites where thousands of tourists came. The park administration prepared colorful ritual ceremonies for the guests, and tourists, in order to enjoy the spectacle to the fullest, climbed to the tops of the pyramids, which is strictly prohibited. As a result, irreparable damage was caused to some structures...
Nevertheless, the majestic Tikal, which has survived 10 centuries of turbulent life and 10 centuries of desolation, does not give up so easily. We invite you to “fly” over these incredible monuments of an ancient civilization, evaluate its power and imagine how many treasures of Tikal that have not yet been found have yet to be discovered by scientists!
One of the most vivid impressions from visiting Tikal is the ascent to the top of Temple IV. If you travel through the park, be sure to climb to the top of this pyramid! It is located farthest from the entrance (about 40 minutes walk along the shortest path), climbing the steep stairs is quite difficult, but it's worth it! From the top, an endless sea of jungle opens up in front of you – an absolutely mesmerizing view! Just don't make noise! Do not speak too loud! Let the sounds of the jungle surround you, cut you off from the ordinary civilized world. If you are lucky, along with the chirping of birds, you can hear the roar of monkeys, which can be mistaken for the roar of some terrible predator.
Mayan pyramids, Tikal, Guatemala
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