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Published: February 20th 2012
Standing on Temple II, viewing the Central Plaza and Temple I. The temples were used for ceremonial purposes. Note the standing stones (stela) and altars (flat stones) in the courtyard behind Theresa.
Tikal Mayan ruins were nothing short of spectacular. The ruins are amazing - as is the setting! Set deep in the jungle and sprawled over 25 square miles you walk through a series of trails to each site whilst monkeys and birds sit above you in the canopy.
The excavation work that has been put into recovering such an interesting settlement has been in itself amazing. Imagine having to remove centuries of the rainforest growth in the blistering heat and humidity, when all you have is a machete?
Many Mayan sites have been dated between 2000 years BC to 900 years AD, or later until the Spanish arrived in the 1500's or so. There are periods of classification during this time to indicate the type of building style they used, the style of ceramics they made, and so on. Pre-classic period was 2000 BC to 250 AD, Classic Period was 250 AD to 900 AD, and Post Classic Period was after 900 AD.
The Mayans over the many centuries tended to keep using this site (and many others) over and over again, rebuilding new temples on top of old ones, and so on. This is what
makes it so fascinating. Some lower ruins are dated to 200 BC or earlier, and some of the top ones are dated 900 AD or later. They keep discovering more ruins underneath. A series of tunnels and tombs were found under some of the Temples. And some of the tombs were built on top of older tombs. The skeletons in the tombs were found with jade and ceramic artifacts, some, very well preserved, with even the colours and fine carving details still visible.
Another fascinating fact is that when a new leadership (usually a priest figure) arrived, the carved rocks depicting the history of the old leader were destroyed and a new one was made for the current leader. It wasn't just destroyed, it was literally cracked in the facial area of the carving, every time. There is good evidence of beheading and human sacrifice at the top of the temples, by the way. They found a cache of human heads in one of Tikal's sites.
To quote the book we read on Tikal, "Reasonable questions as to how and why Tikal grew to what it became and what it really was in terms of social existence are
Great Plaza and the Courts
Different styles of building construction indicated that some of the courts in the plaza were built centuries apart. What still puzzles archeologists is whether this section was for residential or ceremonial purposes.
not served by easy answers. Equally difficult to answer is why Tikal and all its Classic ramifications came to an end. This is really a matter of the collapse of lowland Maya civilization....Everything that is known points to a rapid disintegration of Classic authority and direction. What the actual causes were and why they had their effect when they did, about A.D. 900, are frankly unanswered by excavation. If archaeologists had a better grasp of what went on in Classic times --how people were organized among themselves and in relation to their environment--the seeds or preconditions of collapse might be better identified. A variety of theoretical causes has been proposed over the last half century of Maya studies, ranging from the naturally catastrophic (earthquake, pestilence, etc.) to one concerning relationships between population and agricultural productivity, and even cultural exhaustion or decadence as an inherent trend of civilization." (Tikal, A Handbook of the Ancient Maya Ruins, William R. Coe, Second Edition with revisions by Carlos Rudy Larios V., 1998).
The Indiana Jones movies always seem to pop into our minds when we see and hear about Mayan ruins and the interesting practices the Mayans had. In fact when we were
exploring Tikal, there was a guy humming the sound track!
Hasta luego todo el mundo.
Dave y Theresa.
P.S. What really puzzles Dave, is the fact that archaeologists have never found any hammers or chisels? Isn't that a little odd?
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