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Sunday, 11 February 2007

Surviving the Mayan Ruins of Tikal - Page 3

Written by Thomas Lera and Sandy Fitzgerald
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We had our first glimpse of Tikal on the TV reality show, Survivor – Guatemala. Seeing it in real life is so much more amazing! It is Guatemala’s most famous cultural and nature preserve. Many call it one of the most spiritually powerful spots on earth. Its towering temples loom out of the thick jungle canopy and are reminiscent of stoic sentinels. Like all unexplained mysteries, it is fascinating and so irresistible

The Great Plaza

We were to begin our tour here in the central Great Plaza, in which the emblem hieroglyph from which Tikal derived its name is located. glyphArcheologists believe it was the first city-state to have an emblem glyph, a practice later adopted by others much the way modern states have flags and companies have logos to differentiate themselves.

The Great Plaza was where the ruler Ah Cacao, alias King Chocolate, built the Temple of the Masks (Temple II) and the Temple of the Great Jaguar (Temple I), and was later buried about 700 AD. The day we visited, tourists were picnicking, sharing tidbits with the multi-hued ocellated turkey, as king vultures soured overhead then came to roost on top of Temple I, 145 feet above the Plaza floor.

altarLocated between Temple I and II is Altar 5. If you look carefully at this flat stone, you can see two priests officiating over an altar on which a human skull rests upon a stack of femur bones. The priests’ are clad in garments adorned with feathers, ribbons and jaguar pelts, their heads decorated with a serpent’s head, and they are holding a sacrificial knife and lance.

Louis told us that typically the soaring temples were built upon piles of earthen rubble. Each stone was painstakingly cut and added to the rising structure using a unique blend of burnt limestone and water as mortar. The construction of the enormous temples is even more spectacular considering the Maya used no beasts-of-burden, no iron tools to cut stone, and no wheels for transport! Imagine the huge numbers of laborers needed to erect such massive edifices. Looking out onto the Great Plaza, you sense the spiritual nature of such a place during the peak of its once-thriving society.

We spent time here just breathing deeply and fortifying ourselves with the ancient air of Tikal, absorbing its mystical powers before we moved on. Exploration is not strenuous, if you are not adventurous enough to climb the temples, as the manicured paths are the only way to explore the area. It is impossible to move anywhere off the path without a machete, and after seeing a 5-foot wide swath of army ants crossing the trail, we really had no desire to do so!

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Last modified on Sunday, 16 December 2012

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