D A T C O T O U R
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|Gateway to the
Mayan legacy of Guatemala is Flores in the department of Peten. Here are dense hardwood
forests and dry jungle, grassy savannahs, small hills and valleys dotted with lakes and
seasonal swamps, all home to exotic scenery and rare tropical species. Tikal, the greatest
of all Classic Mayan cities, lies 39 miles northeast of Flores. Here are thousands of
constructions ranging from temples on pyramid bases to palaces, ball courts, tombs, burial
chambers and stelae.
Besides Tikal, many other ruins exist in the Peten; the most important are El Ceibal and Uaxactun. Since suitable hotel space is limited, make your reservations in advance; the main hotels are near the city of Flores; there are two small, basic hotels at the ruins and the rather better Jungle Lodge. Tikal park hours are 6AM-6PM, making the legendary sunrise and/or sunset viewing from the top of the pyramids difficult, if not impossible, to accomplish.
Scattered for more than 4 km in every direction from the center are thousands of platforms that might have been foundations of houses. More than 50,000 people lived in Tikal and its surroundings at the height of its reign.
|Precious relics, reflecting the
splendor of a flourishing 2,000 year-old civilization, lie buried in the forests of the
Peten - cradle of the Mayas. Of all the remains to be found in this region, those at Tikal
constitute one of the main archaeological sites in Central America. Discovered in 1848 by
Colonel Modesto Mendez, it extends over an area of 222 square miles, forming an impressive
Tikal was founded about 2,500 years ago. It was built uninterruptedly over a period of 1,100 years. The stone buildings, which remain in the form of small hills or mounds, are concentrated around the Plaza Mayor. Six huge temple-pyramids stand predominant - like powerful lions guarding their lair.
Everything at Tikal proves the existence of an exceptional civilization, one highly advanced in architecture, astronomy and sculpture. Vestiges of ingeniously constructed palaces and temples, stela monumentse and ceremonial altars are to be seen everywhere - bearing witness to a once thriving reality. These are the eternal guardians of an empire, which, at its zenith, attained a bredth of culture superior to that of any other pre-Columbian civilization.
The Temple of the Giant Jaguar, 145 foot high, and the opposite Temple of Masks, 127 feet tall, were used by priests not only for ceremonial purposes but also for astrological research as well. Also on the Plaza Mayor are two rows of carved stelae and altars with hieroglyphic inscriptions.
Without a doubt,of all the Mayan ruins, Tikal is pre-eminent. The architectural and sculptural relics found there are beleived to be the best aesthetic manifestations of Mayan art.
|A visit is also made to the Lost World Complex, a group of recently discovered structures from the late pre-Classic period, more ancient than Tikal itself. There is a museum housing some of the many pre-Columbian art treasures found during the excavation of the site.|
Uaxactun: In many ways, Uaxactun is considered a primitive, miniature version of Tikal, with groups of temples and palace structures. But here the highest temple rises only slightly above 27 feet. There are eight group of structures. Group E is noted for a set of three temples, oriented to that an observer standing opposite would see the sun rising over the northernmost temple of the day of the summer solstice and over the southernmost temple on the day of the winter solstice. Two large stucco faces flank the stairway on the facing temple base, which is one of the oldest visible Mayan structures in the Peten. Uaxactun is believed to be the place where Mayan culture was consolidated, its writing system perfected, and its calendar begun. One of its outstanding buildings is the astronomical observatory, where the Mayan people began their studies in this field. Splendid temples, stelae and pottery have been restored.
Ceibal: the Mayan archaeological site situated in Sayaxche, near the banks of La Pasion River. The Ceibal stelae are among the finest and best preserved sculptures of the late Classic Period. Because of the hardness of the local stone, which has withstood centuries of rain, root penetration, and falling trees, its often called the "Mayan Art Gallery". One of its most important structures is a round stone, which is considered very rare in the Mesoamerican area. Another important feature is a stairway decorated with many glyphs and numerous stellae. Structures are relatively low and strangely do not use the corbeled arch typical of the Maya. The finely carved stelaw, depicting priests, ball players and other personages, are well preserved. The last inscribed date at the site is the equivalent of 889 AD.