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Tikal

Tikal (tēkäl´), ruined city of the Classic Period of the Maya, N central Petén, Guatemala. The largest and possibly the oldest of the Maya cities, Tikal consists of nine groups of courts and plazas built on hilly land above surrounding swamps (which may have been lakes in former times) and interconnected by bridges and causeways. The main civic and religious center of the city covers about 500 acres (200 hectares). Temples and palaces rise above the plazas. The design of the buildings is for the most part monumental and static and utilizes harmonious combinations of solid masses. The tallest structure, a temple, is 229 ft (70 m) high. With a backdrop of lush tropical vegetation the abandoned city is an impressive sight.

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Tikal

Tikal an ancient Mayan city in the tropical Petén region of northern Guatemala, with great plazas, pyramids, and palaces. It flourished ad 300–800, reaching its peak towards the end of that period.

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Tikal

Tikal

Tikal is a major pre-Hispanic Maya center located in the dense jungles of the northern department of Petén, Guatemala. Tikal is both the largest and the most thoroughly studied Maya site. The site core consists of several large areas of major temple-pyramid complexes on high rocky ground, linked by causeways (sacbeob) and surrounded by over twenty square miles of scattered residential remains and distant defensive fortifications. Nearby bajos (lowlands) were modified to trap rainwater. Major structures date from the Late Formative to the Late Classic Periods, and dated monuments date from 292 ce on Stela 29 to 869 ce on Stela 11. Tikal sat astride the headwaters of rivers flowing eastward to the Caribbean and westward to the Gulf of Mexico, dominating the cross-peninsular trade routes through two major epochs.

Carved stelae, ceramics, and burial offerings show very close ties between Tikal, Teotihuacán, and Kaminaljuyú in the Early Classic Period (about 378 ce). Stela 31 (dated 435 ce) of ruler Siyaj Chan K'awiil II (Stormy Sky) depicts attendants in Teotihuacán military attire with Teotihuacano weapons. These ties vanish after 354 ce, when a period of reduced construction and activity began. This Middle Classic hiatus, which corresponds to the decline of Teotihuacán, lasted until nearly 700 ce, when renewed activity began the Late Classic Period at Tikal.

Inscriptions also name nearby Maya sites, including Calakmul, Caracol, Uaxactun, and Naranjo, relating either warfare between sites or strategic and marital alliances. The inscriptions tell of more than two dozen rulers spanning 800 years.

Tikal's Great Plaza of Late Classic structures is defined by two east-west facing temple-pyramids, I and II. Temple I, 155 feet high, was the burial pyramid of ruler Jasaw Chan K'awiil, inaugurated in 682 ce. The adjacent north acropolis consists of large temple-pyramids built above tombs of the ruling elite. The burials include skeletons, painted inscriptions, inscribed bones, jade offerings, animal offerings, and ceramic vessels. To the south is a large elite residence or palace. West of the plaza is the largest pyramid at Tikal, Temple IV, 230 feet high, and the probable tomb of Yik'in Chan K'awiil, son of Jasaw Chan K'awiil.

Today Tikal, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and Guatemala National Park of 222 square miles, may be visited via the modern towns of Flores and Santa Elena.

See alsoArchaeology; Calakmul; Caracol; Kaminaljuyú; Maya, The; Mesoamerica; Teotihuacán; Uaxactún.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Coe, William R. Tikal: A Handbook of the Ancient Maya Ruins, With a Guide Map. Philadelphia: University Museum, University of Pennsylvania, 1967.

Shook, Edwin M. Tikal Reports. Nos. 1-11: Facsimile Reissue of Original Reports Published 1958–1961. Philadelphia: University Museum, University of Pennsylvania, 1986.

                              Walter R. T. Witschey

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