Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Day 45, Guatemala

Guess what guys...we are going to take a helitour to Guatemala!! Any guesses as to why?? Yes, you guessed right, Marti!

We are going to the ancient Maya Ceremonial site of Tikal, which is part of Guatemala's Tikal National Park and in 1979 was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
This archaeological gem comprises 586 square kilometres of jungle all around the ceremonial centre.

Oh, Sita, you are going to love this! Since bird watching is your passion, Tikal is certainly the place to be!! There are 410 species of birds at Tikal alone!

Tikal was one of the major cultural and population centres of the Maya civilization.

Wow, we are able to enjoy a spectacular aerial view of the ruins which lie among lowland rainforest.
Our guide has pointed out trees at the Tikal park to us...These include
gigantic kapok (Ceiba pentandra) the sacred tree of the Maya; Tropical
cedar (Cedrela odorata), and Honduras Mahogany (Swietenia macrophylla).

If we are lucky we may also see agouti, white-nosed coatis, gray foxes, Geoffroy's spider monkeys, howler monkeys, harpy eagles, falcons, oscillated curkeys, guans, toucans, green parrots and leafcutter ants!! Jaguars, jaguarundis, and cougars are also said to roam in the park.

For centuries this city was completely covered under jungle.

There are thousands of ancient structures at Tikal and only a fraction of these have been excavated, after decades of archaeological work. The most prominent surviving buildings include six very large Mesoamerican step pyramids, labelled Temples I - VI, each of which support a temple structure on their summits. Some of these pyramids are over 60 meters high (200 feet). They were numbered sequentially during the early survey of the site.

Did you know that it took the University of Pennsylvania 13 years to uncover about 10 square miles of structure after structure at Tikal??

Interestingly, Tikal had no water other than what was collected from rainwater and stored in underground storage facilities (termed chultuns).
Archaeologists working in Tikal during the last century utilized the ancient underground facilities to store water for their own use.

The absence of springs, rivers, and lakes in the immediate vicinity of Tikal highlights a prodigious feat: building a major city with only supplies of stored seasonal rainfall. Tikal prospered with intensive agricultural techniques, which were far more advanced than the slash and burn methods originally theorized by archaeologists. The reliance on seasonal rainfall left Tikal vulnerable to prolonged drought which could possibly have played a major role in the Classic Maya Collapse, but nobody knows for sure…...

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