Tikal is the ruin of an ancient city, which was likely to have been called Yax Mutal, found in a rainforest in Guatemala. Ambrosio Tut, a gum-sapper, reported the ruins to La Gaceta, a Guatemalan newspaper, after the Berlin Academy of Sciences magazine republished the report in 1853, archeologists and treasure hunters began visiting the forest. Today, tourism to the site may protect the rainforest. It is one of the largest archaeological sites and urban centers of the pre-Columbian Maya civilization and it is located in the archaeological region of the Petén Basin in what is now northern Guatemala. Situated in the department of El Petén, the site is part of Guatemalas Tikal National Park, Tikal was the capital of a conquest state that became one of the most powerful kingdoms of the ancient Maya. Though monumental architecture at the dates back as far as the 4th century BC, Tikal reached its apogee during the Classic Period. There is evidence that Tikal was conquered by Teotihuacan in the 4th century AD, following the end of the Late Classic Period, no new major monuments were built at Tikal and there is evidence that elite palaces were burned. These events were coupled with a population decline, culminating with the site’s abandonment by the end of the 10th century. The name Tikal may be derived from ti akal in the Yucatec Maya language, the name was apparently applied to one of the sites ancient reservoirs by hunters and travelers in the region. It has alternatively been interpreted as meaning the place of the voices in the Itza Maya language, Tikal, however, is not the ancient name for the site but rather the name adopted shortly after its discovery in the 1840s. Hieroglyphic inscriptions at the ruins refer to the ancient city as Yax Mutal or Yax Mutul, the kingdom as a whole was simply called Mutul, which is the reading of the hair bundle emblem glyph seen in the accompanying photo. The closest large modern settlements are Flores and Santa Elena, approximately 64 kilometres by road to the southwest, Tikal is approximately 303 kilometres north of Guatemala City. It is 19 kilometres south of the contemporary Maya city of Uaxactun and 30 kilometres northwest of Yaxha, the city was located 100 kilometres southeast of its great Classic Period rival, Calakmul, and 85 kilometres northwest of Calakmuls ally Caracol, now in Belize. The city has been mapped and covered an area greater than 16 square kilometres that included about 3,000 structures. The topography of the consists of a series of parallel limestone ridges rising above swampy lowlands. The major architecture of the site is clustered upon areas of higher ground, the area around Tikal has been declared as the Tikal National Park and the preserved area covers 570 square kilometres. The ruins lie among the tropical rainforests of northern Guatemala that formed the cradle of lowland Maya civilization, the city itself was located among abundant fertile upland soils, and may have dominated a natural east–west trade route across the Yucatan Peninsula. Conspicuous trees at the Tikal park include gigantic kapok the sacred tree of the Maya, tropical cedar, jaguars, jaguarundis, and cougars are also said to roam in the park
Image: Tikal Temple 1 2006 08 11
Emblem glyph for Tikal (Mutal)
The great metropolis of Teotihuacan in the Valley of Mexico appears to have decisively intervened in Tikal politics.
The main plaza during winter solstice celebrations