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Tikal, Guatemala


82nd Day


In Guatemala history, the first proof of human setters dates back to 10,000BC. Pre-Columbian Guatemala history is divided into 3 periods, the Pre-Classic Era (2000 BC to 250 AD), the Classic Era (250 AD to 900 AD) and the Post-Classic Era (900 to 1500 AD). During the Pre-Classic Era, early Maya cities were established. Among them, El Mirador was the most populated city in pre-Columbian America. It was also the first politically organized state in the region. During the Classic Era, the Mayan civilization flourished throughout Guatemala and surrounding regions. The greatest Maya cities were built such as Tikal, Palenque and Copán. By this time, Maya fully developed the most advanced form of writing, mathematics, astronomy and arts in the region. During the Post-Classic Era, the Maya civilization became in decline and the Aztecs began dominated in Mesoamerica. The Spanish expeditions to Guatemala began in 1519. Pedro de Alvarado, who was the Spanish soldier authorized to conquer Guatemala, defeated the Mayans in 1524 and conquered the land. The colonial capital was moved to the present location after a series of earthquakes in 1776. Guatemala declared independence from Spain in 1821. It briefly became a part of the Mexican Empire and then joined the United Provinces of Central America for a period. After passing through a series of dictatorships, coups and insurgences, a civilian President Juan José Arévalo Bermejo was elected in the first democratic election in Guatemala in 1944. Jacobo Arbenz, a successor of Arévalo and also freely elected, continued agrarian reform of Arévalo’s government, but was overthrown in a US-backed coup led by Col. Carlos Castillo Armas in 1954, which eventually led to a long-term insurgence. In 1960, the Guatemalan Civil War broke out and continued until 1996, when a peace accord between the guerrillas and the government was signed. Since then, successive democratic elections were held. Tourism has become an increasing source of revenue for Guatemala.

I joined a tour and moved an hour from Flores to Tikal by bus. Tikal Ruins were in a broad jungle having an area of about 120km2 with 4km on a side. At present, it was covered with a thick lush jungle. I heard that at the time when the Mayan lived, they always cut the surrounding trees. When civilization developed, there was always a river nearby, but it was not the case in Tikal. People in Tikal created ponds to store rainwater.
We were lectured about the site with models before touring the sites. The visits to the North Acropolis, the Grand Plaza, the Lost World and the Temple 4 were scheduled. These names were labeled by the scholars who excavated the ruins, not by the Mayan.
Tikal is designated as both World Cultural Heritage Site and World Natural Heritage site by UNESCO. There were few artificial objects and wild animals were seen here and there. I saw a bird (peacock?) on a tree, an alligator in a pond, ant heaps, a group of monkeys and animals of the racoon family.

*DMC-ZS10/TZ20 records images in max.14-megapixel and DMC-ZS7/TZ10 in max.12-megapixel.

We first visited the Grand Plaza. After passing through the dim jungle, we reached at a place with a bright open sky, where many altars were lined up. According to the guide, this place played a role of a sort of meeting ground in ancient time. Other temples were seen between stone structures and beyond the jungle. It was very impressive.

These are the pictures of the Temple I over the Grand Plaza and the Temple V beyond the jungle which we did not tour this time.

Next, we toured the North Acropolis where the Temple I and II were built face to face. This was the main site of the Tikal Ruins. It was so spectacular. Since a huge temple stood at a spacious place, my first impression was that the temple was huge. Except the Temple I, we could climb the stairs of the temples to the altar on the upper side. When I climbed the Temple II, each step of the stairs was so large and high that I was out of breath, which made me realize that the temple was really huge. When I clapped my hands between the Temple I and II, the sound was echoed just like a bird singing. Very mysterious!
When a ceremony was held here, it would play the same role as the hymn resonating with the dome of the church creating a beautiful sound. We could not know whether it was so created or just a product of chance because there was no written data, but it seemed to me that the Mayan people would have calculated the effect because they had highly advanced technology.

Next site was the Temple IV. The guide walked forward the animal trail in the jungle, for taking a shortcut, or for offering an additional service, or for other reasons I did not know.
The heat and humidity reached at its height. We were sweating like a horse. In five minutes, we arrived at a bit open place. The guide explained that we were at the place of the Temple IV. But all I saw was trees and the heaped-up stones. “Is this the Temple IV? It is so much different from the Temple I and II I saw a little while ago”, I wondered. Then the guide explained that it was still under excavation and that all the Temples we could see here had been covered by trees just like the Temple IV when they were discovered. On the side of the temple, the stairs were built for visitors to climb to the altar on the upper side. The view from the altar was so wonderful!
The temples stuck out their heads from the green carpet of the jungle stretched beyond my eyes. According to the guide, new ruins might be buried in the rolled-part of the jungle (seen at the center of the picture). I’d love to see a whole picture of the Tikal ruins as early as possible if all of them were excavated.
While I took a breath on the altar, I heard monkeys howling. It sounded as if they were quarreling. The guide said that monkeys were sensitive to the change of the weather and that they were telling their group members it would rain in an hour there. After hearing the guide saying so, I felt it started to get cloudy, or was it just my imagination?

The last touring site here was the Lost World. There were pyramids created in same size and they were placed to point the directions of the sunrise on the days of the summer and the winter solstices and the spring and the autumn equinoxes. At first, they were structured to serve as astronomical observatories and later the central pyramid was added to use the structural complex for the religious purpose. The front side was completely unearthed but the both sides were still buried intentionally or unintentionally.

Our tour in Tikal ended with the Lost World, but there were still a lot of ruins in Tikal we did not tour around this time. It was very regrettable for me. It would be exciting if new ruins were excavated when I visited here next time.

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