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Tikal Archaeological Site





Location: Tikal, El Petén Department    Map

Found: 4th century BC




Description of Tikal Archaeological Site

Tikal Archaeological Site is an important Mayan archeological site that gained a title of UNESCO World Heritage Site. Tikal ancient site located in El Petén Department of Guatemala. Tikal Archaeological Site is one of the most important Mayan sites in the region. During its heyday Tikal was the capital of one of the most powerful city states. Archeological digs still continue, but scientists already uncovered over three thousands buildings of various sizes. Some of the most interesting sites of Tikal Archaeological Site include six large pyramids in the historic center that date back to VII- VIII centuries. In addition to traditional notation Roman numerals that archeologists usually give to major buildings, these temples received romantic names including Temple of Jaguar, Temple of Masks, Temple of Inscriptions and many others.


Tikal (or Tik'al, according to the modern Mayan orthography) is one of the largest archaeological sites and urban centers of the pre-Columbian Mayan civilization. It is part of the Tikal National Park, which was declared a World Heritage Site, by Unesco, in 1979. According to the glyphs found in the site, its Mayan name would have been Yax Mutul.

Tikal was the capital of a belligerent state, which became one of the most powerful kingdoms of the ancient Maya, although the monumental architecture of the site dates back to the fourth century BC. Tikal reached its apogee during the Classic Period, between 200 and 900 AD. During this time, the city dominated great part of the Mayan region, in the political, economic and military scope and maintained links with other regions, throughout Mesoamerica, even with the great metropolis of Teotihuacan, in the distant Valley of Mexico. After the Late Classic, no major monuments were built. With a long list of dynastic rulers, the discovery of many of their respective tombs and the study of their monuments, temples and palaces, Tikal is probably the best understood of the great Mayan cities of the lowlands of Mesoamerica.
Tikal Archaeological Site is an unique place among other Mayan sites. In addition to its historic and archaeological significance, Tikal is also famous for its extensive work on conservation of rare and endangered species of wild animals such as ocelots, peccaries, monkeys, parrots and jaguars.


Name of Tikal

The name Tikal can be a derivation of the words ti ak'al, in the Yucatec Mayan language, meaning "in the water well". Apparently, the name was applied by hunters and travelers from the region and referred to one of the ancient water reserves of the site. An alternative explanation suggests that the name comes from the Mayan Itza language and means "place of voices", or "place of languages".

However, Tikal is not the old name of the site, but rather the name that was adopted shortly after its rediscovery, in the 1840s. The glyphic inscriptions in Maya writing, in the ruins, refer to the ancient city as Yax Mutal or Yax Mutul, whose meaning is "first mutal." It is possible that Tikal was so named to distinguish it from Dos Pilas, which came to use the same emblem glyph. The rulers of the city, apparently, wanted to distinguish themselves as the first city bearing this name.The kingdom, as a whole, was called Mutul, being the reading of the emblem glyph. Its exact meaning is not clear, although some scientists think that it refers to the hairstyle of the Ku'hul Ahaw, or ruler.





History of Tikal Archaeological Site


There are traces of an early agriculture in Tikal, dating from the Middle Preclassic, around 1000 BC. In a sealed chultún, an underground cavity in the shape of a bottle, a hiding place with Mayan pottery was discovered, dating from around 700 to 400 BC. In the late preclassic, for the first time around 400 to 300 BC., already important constructions in Tikal were realized, including the construction of pyramids and platforms, although the city was being eclipsed by other more powerful sites, located to the north, like the Mirador and Nakbé.

At that time, Tikal was part of the Chikanel culture, which dominated the central and northern zone of Mesoamerica, a region that included the entire Yucatan Peninsula, including the north and east of Guatemala and the territory of Belize. Two temples, dating from the late Chikanel, had masonry walls, whose superstructures may have been Mayan arches, although this has not been proven. One of these temples had elaborate paintings, on the outer walls, showing human figures on a background of decorative figures, painted in yellow, black, pink and red.

In the 1st century AD, rich graves appeared for the first time and Tikal experienced a political and cultural flowering, after the decline of its powerful neighbors in the north. At the end of the Late Preclassic period, Izapa art and architecture, from the Pacific coast, began to exert its influence in Tikal, as evidenced by the first murals in the city and a sculpture in the acropolis.



Early Classic

The dynastic government, a common regime among the Maya of the lowlands, was strongly rooted in Tikal. According to later glyphic records, the dynasty was founded by Yax-Moch-Xoc, possibly in the third century. At the beginning of the Early Classic, power in the Maya region was concentrated in Tikal and Calakmul, in the core of the central Maya region. It is possible that Tikal has benefited from the fall of the great Preclassic states, such as El Mirador. In the Early Classic, Tikal developed rapidly in the most dynamic city of the Mayan region, stimulating the development of other nearby Mayan cities.

However, Tikal was often at war and the inscriptions mention alliances and conflicts with other Mayan states, such as Uaxactún, El Caracol, Naranjo and Calakmul. At the end of the Early Classic, Tikal was defeated by El Caracol, which replaced Tikal, as the main center of power, in the southern Maya lowlands. During the first part of the Early Classic period, hostilities also took place between Tikal and the neighboring city of Uaxactún, of which there are inscriptions in Uaxactún regarding the capture of Tikal prisoners. There seems to have been a break in the male succession of the dynasty, in 317 AD., when Une 'B'alam carried out an end-of-katun ceremony, apparently as queen of the city.


Tikal and Teotihuacan

The fourteenth king of Tikal was Chak Tok Ich'aak (Great Jaguar Claw) Chak Tok Ich'aak built a palace, which was preserved and enlarged by later rulers, until it became the nucleus of the central acropolis. Little is known about Chak Tok Ich'aak, except that he was murdered on January 14, 378 AD. On the same day, Siyah K'ak '(' Fire is born ') arrived from the west, after passing through El Perú, a site west of Tikal, on January 8. The inscriptions on Stela 31 refer to him as "Lord of the West." Siyah K'ak 'was probably a foreign general, serving a figure represented by an atypical glyph for the Maya, composed of a spear thrower. , in combination with an owl, a glyph that is known from the great metropolis of Teotihuacan, in the distant Valley of Mexico. The spear-throwing owl, even, may have been the ruler of Teotihuacan. These recorded events suggest that Siyah K'ak 'led an invasion of Teotihuacan, which defeated the native king of Tikal, who was captured and executed immediately.Siyah K'ak' seems to have received the support of a powerful political faction, in Tikal himself. More or less coinciding with that conquest, a group of Teotihuacan Indians resided near the Mundo Perdido complex, it seems, and also exercised control over other cities in the area, such as Uaxactún, where they became king, but did not take the throne. of Tikal for himself In the course of a year, the son of Búho spear thrower, Yax Nuun Ayiin I (first crocodile), was installed as the tenth king of Tikal, while he was still a boy. and Tikal remained a vassal of Siyah K'ak ', during the time he lived. It seems likely that Yax Nuun Ayiin I married one of the pre-existing wives of the defeated Tikal dynasty, with the purpose of legitimizing the right to rule of his son, Siyaj Chan K'awiil II.

Blue River, a small site, 100 kilometers northeast of Tikal, was conquered by it, during the reign of Yax Nuun Ayiin I. The site became an outpost of Tikal, protecting it from the hostile cities in the north and It also became a link for trade with the Caribbean.

Although the new rulers of Tikal were foreigners, their descendants quickly adapted to the Mayan culture. Tikal became the main ally and commercial partner of Teotihuacan, in the Maya lowlands. After its conquest by Teotihuacan, Tikal quickly dominated the north and east of Petén. Uaxactún, along with the smaller towns of the region, were absorbed in the kingdom of Tikal. Other sites, such as Bejucal and Motul de San José, near Lake Petén Itzá, became vassals of its most powerful neighbor in the north. By the middle of the fifth century, Tikal had a core territory of at least 25 kilometers in all directions.




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