coatimundi. His size is about that of a large house cat. As he chewed, I was able to glimpse his rather fearsome-looking fangs. Although coatimundis appear rather friendly, I hesitated to get in range of this one's jaws. Although this little guy was alone at the time, they like to travel in groups of a dozen or so.
Bromeliads trap water in their long, trough-like leaves and provide homes for many jungle animals, including frogs, slugs, and spiders. After we left the Great Plaza, we walked through a cathedral-like tunnel of green, with little shafts of sunlight filtering down to the jungle floor as if from stained-glass windows set high in the canopy above. The sounds of the forest were all around us. All this left us unprepared for our encounter with Temple V.
Recorders were popular from the Middle Ages through the Baroque period. The lack of a tomb is not the only oddity of Templo V. The temples surmounting most of the other pyramids of Tikal have three successive rooms, positioned so that a person has to step up from one to the next. Templo V has only one room, measuring .76m (2.5 ft) wide. Surprisingly, the rear wall of the room is 4.6m (15 ft) thick. As archaeologist William Coe mused, "perhaps never was so much built to provide so little floor space". Why? No one knows. It is just another of the many mysteries of this ancient city, lost for so long in the heart of the Petén jungle.
Templo IV, Tikal's largest pyramid
John Lloyd Stephens and Frederick Catherwood could pass nearby in the 1840s, completely unaware of Tikal's existence. It was not until 1848 that Guatemala's government sent an expedition to check out the rumors of a lost city and discovered Tikal.
Plaza of the Seven Temples
The Lost World Complex
Teotihuacan. There is evidence that a substantial number of Teotihuacans lived in the area immediately around the Lost World Complex. This was not unusual. Teotihuacan was a great commercial state with trade connections to both the Atlantic and Pacific Coasts, and from Honduras to New Mexico in the US. The Zapotec capitol of Monte Alban in present day Oaxaca, Mexico also contained a substantial population of Teotihuacans. The city of Teotihuacan itself was divided into neighborhoods populated by people from a variety of Mesoamerican areas, including a Maya sector. From the period of 100 AD to 600 AD, Teotihuacan was the largest and most powerful state in all Mesoamerica, with a population that grew to approximately 200,000. Apparently Teotihuacan's power was based on military conquest as well as trade.
Teotihuacan conquered Tikal, possibly with the help of the resident population of Teotihuacans. The Maya king of Tikal, called Chak Tok Ich'aak (Great Jaguar Paw) was killed on January 14, 378 AD, apparently after being captured by invading Teotihuacans under their general Siyah K'ak' (Fire is Born). Chak Tok Ich'aak was apparently revered by his people, even after (or perhaps because of) his execution by invaders. His palace was never covered over with other buildings but was maintained intact for centuries as a sacred monument. Even with local help, the Teotihuacan conquest was quite an amazing feat of arms, since the two capitals were 1014 km (630 miles) apart, separated by great mountain ranges and vast stretches of thick jungle. Not until the arrival of the conquistador Pedro de Alvarado in 1524 AD would a conquerer again travel such a distances in Mesoamerica.
Yax Nuun Ayiin II, who reigned from 768-790 AD. A stela on the site provides a Maya date equivalent to 771 AD. He was apparently a distant relative, or perhaps simply adopted the name, of the Teotihuacan noble elevated to power 400 years before. Twin-temple complexes were once thought to be unique to Tikal, but have been found in several other Petén cities, attesting to the political and cultural influence of Tikal in the area. You can get a sense of the pyramid's scale from the small figure seated on top of the pyramid.
Caravan Tour. Typically, steps to Maya temples are quite high but also quite narrow. It is necessary to exercise considerable care to avoid a mishap. In some archaeological sites, careless tourists have been killed by tumbling down such staircases. This has led both the Guatemalan and Mexican governments to restrict access to many temples.
corbel arch. Just inside the arch, behind the wood barrier, you can see an upright stela and a low disk-like altar immediately in front. The arrangement of an enclosure off to the side of a twin temples, and containing a stela and altar, is typical of all three twin-temple complexes.
ceiba is instantly recognizable by the shape of its unusual buttress roots, and by the tall, straight trunk. Ceibas can grow to 70m (230 ft). Their arrow- straight trunks contain no branches up to the broad spreading canopy. The Ceiba was sacred to the Maya. They saw it as connecting the underworld (Xibalba) through its buttress roots, with the trunk representing daily reality, and the spreading canopy as heaven. Even in modern times, Maya foresters will often leave a ceiba standing while cutting all the trees around it.The photo of me above was taken by one of two Guatemalan soldiers who were assisting tourists wanting their picture taken in this evocative site. Dressed in jungle camouflage, and armed to the teeth with assault rifles and other weapons, the soldiers were really quite friendly and easy-going.
This completes my two-part posting on Guatemala's stunning Tikal archaeological site. I hope you enjoyed it. If you would like to leave a comment, please do so in the Comments section below, or email me directly.
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Hasta luego, Jim