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1. Abaj Takalik
2. Aguateca
3. Altar de los Sacrificios
4. Ceibal
5. Dos Pilas
6. El Mirador
7. El Naranjo
8. Iximché
9. Kaminal Juyú
10. Kinal
11. K'Umarcaaj
12. La Democracia
13. Mixco Viejo
14. Nakún
15. Piedras Negras
16. Quiriguá
17. Río Azul
18. Tamarindo
19. Tayasal
20. Tikal
21. Topoxté
22. Uaxactún
23. Yaxhá
24. Zaculeu
Abaj Takalik ( RESERVATION FORM )

Abaj Takalik means Still Stone. This site is important because two contemporaneous yet different sculptural styles converged here: the Izapa style and the Monte Alto style, or the Olmec and Maya styles, respectively. This occurrence sheds great light on the controversy of the rise of civilization in Central America. The oldest date found until now is on Stela 2 and is from 350 B.C..

Aguateca ( RESERVATION FORM )

The Aguateca ruins lie nine miles (14 km.) south of the town of Sayaxché, and they can be reached by water unless the water level is very low, in which case the shallow parts of the lake can be waded. The stelae of Aguateca, especially Stela 2 (from the late Classic period), are extraordinary, and so is the Petexbatún Lagoon at the entrance of Aguateca.

Altar de los Sacrificios ( RESERVATION FORM )

Altar de los Sacrificios is located west of Ceibal, very near the Río Usumacinta River, on the Mexican border by Chiapas. In spite of the small area it covers, in the 7th and 8th centuries A.D. it had great importance because of its strategic position on the trade routes. During this time most of the stelae were carved, although one of them is dated 910 A.D., when the city was already in decline.

Ceibal ( RESERVATION FORM )

The Ceibal stelae are some of the finest and best preserved of the late Classic period, which is why Ceibal is known as The Gallery of Maya Art. However, the cultural history of Ceibal is represented in ceramics: clay vessels with painted figures of men and women from the Guatemalan high plateau in the mid-Preclassic period. Ceibal was occupied around 800 B.C. (mid-Preclassic period) by founders of unknown origin, but they probably came from the Olmec peoples in Mexico or from the Guatemalan altiplano.

Dos Pilas ( RESERVATION FORM )

An archaeological site ten-and-a-half miles (17 km.) southwest of the municipality of Sayaxché, in the department of Petén, Dos Pilas was named after two adjacent springs in the form of water tanks. It has been named an Archaeological Park and a National Monument. Dos Pilas has 16 carved stelae, 19 altars, 19 panels, 14 miscellaneous stones, a hieroglyphic bench, and 4 hieroglyphic stairways. Bound prisoners, generally at the feet of the ruler, is a common image. The most beautiful sculpture of Dos Pilas is Panel 10, known as the Red Stela because it retains red, blue, and yellow colored stucco. The site is best visited in the dry season, because in winter the ground turns swampy.

El Mirador ( RESERVATION FORM )

Access to El Mirador, two-and-a-half miles (4 km.) from the Mexican border, is made difficult by its great extension and enormous structures. Considered one of the most important cities of the late Preclassic period, it peaked between 400 B.C. and 100 A.D.. Its structure is impressive despite the state of the ruins. Its constructions and size are the largest of any Maya archaeological site. Excavations are currently taking place here.

El Naranjo ( RESERVATION FORM )

This site is small but not irrelevant because it is the gateway to the spectacular northern part of El Petén as well as a starting point for a México-Guatemala trip. El Naranjo lies 106 miles (170 km.) from Flores.

Iximché ( RESERVATION FORM )

This archaeological site was the location of the capital of the ancient Cakchiquel Maya domain, in which the first capital of the Kingdom of Goathemala was founded. In the municipality of Tecpán Guatemala, twenty-five miles (34 km.) from Chimaltenango, Iximché sits at the top of a fortified hill surrounded by dry moats almost nine feet deep. The patio for ball games is completely enclosed, which is common in many places on the altiplano. Iximché is a little over a mile away (2 km.) from Tecpán and 54 miles (87 km.), on the same road, from a Huehuetenango.

Kaminal Juyú ( RESERVATION FORM )

Located in the area around Guatemala City, this was an important city in the early Classic period (although today most of it has been demolished). In addition to ordinary tombs, the site has a great variety of early Classic period tombs beneath its unpretentious pyramids. Lovely red-clay vessels, revealing outside influences, are one example of ceramics found here. Foreign styles are also discernible in some of the pyramids. No extraordinary temples are present, but the openings in the roofs indicate the buildings were roofed with straw. Kaminal Juyú is distinguished by its incredible number of patios for ball games. Archaeological excavations in the zone have made clear the magnitude this city reached in the past. Today only some burial mounds covered with sand remain, and they are used as leisure areas.

Kinal ( RESERVATION FORM )

Twenty-five miles (40 km.) northeast of Uaxactún, this site holds close to 45 structures, the tallest one ( Structure 42 ) with a height of 75 feet (23 m.). There is an Acropolis with buildings that hold at least 12 patios of different levels within them.

K'Umarcaaj ( RESERVATION FORM )

Also known as Utatlán, these ruins are located in the department of El Quiché, only two-and-a-half miles (4 km.) from the department capital, Santa Cruz del Quiché. Mentioned in the Popol Vuh as an impressive, powerful city, today very little of its structures remain, because it was systematically destroyed by Pedro de Alvarado when he burned it in 1524.

La Democracia ( RESERVATION FORM )

The site of La Democracia is situated in the de Escuintlá department, on the Pacific coast of Guatemala. For many years archaeologists believed the Olmecs, who thrived in the Gulf of Mexico region, were the oldest American civilization. Today, however, it has been demonstrated that the Olmecs descended from a Mayan people, who have been called Pre-Olmecs. Unlike Olmec sculptures, Pre-Olmec figures had only one side of their faces carved. The Pre-Olmec civilization existed only in the Pacific coast area.

Mixco Viejo ( RESERVATION FORM )

The city-fortress of the Cakchiquel Maya domain (from 1250-1525, late Postclassic epoch) is now an important archaeological site. Located in the Chimaltenango department, the Mixco Viejo ruins, intact until now, exhibit a series of pyramids, observatory tumuli, and ball-game stadiums. Tombs have not been found, which makes experts believe that the dead were cremated. This was primarily a ceremonial center, but its most interesting characteristic is the existence of two patios used for ball games. The buildings and ceramics of Mixco Viejo appear to belong to the same era, the late Postclassic. Until the16th century, Mixco Viejo was the Maya capital of Pokomán. Today, the original Pokomán language is spoken only in the towns of Mixco and Chinautlá.

Nakún ( RESERVATION FORM )

The chief significance of this city in the middle of El Petén is its size rather than its constructions and monuments, although fifteen stelae dating from 771 to 810 to 849 B.C. were found here. It is believed that Nakún was founded shortly before the end of the Classic period.

Piedras Negras ( RESERVATION FORM )

These ruins are as large as the ones at Tikal, although less visited by tourists. This place, possibly allied with Yaxchilán, got its name from the color of the stones in the river.

Quiriguá ( RESERVATION FORM )

North of Copán (in Honduras), Quiriguá was built in the valley of the del Motagua River, which flows parallel to the Honduran border. Currently the archaeological zone is within the del Río Motagua Cerro Azul National Park, and it is one of the most important in Guatemala. Quiriguá flourished between 550 and 850 A.D., the same years it maintained a fierce rivalry with its neighbor, Copán, which it conquered in 738 A.D.. Around that time the majority of the monuments and stelae of the site were erected, of which Stela E stands out. It is almost 36 feet tall (11 m.) and represents Cauac Cielo, the main ruler of Quiriguá. Because of its exceptional value, UNESCO has named it a World Heritage Site. Some of the main attractions of the site: The Great Plaza This is one of the largest of its type in Mayan art and one of the most elaborate. The Six Zoomorphs Human and animal figures blend on these six great blocks of carved stone. Turtles and jaguars are easily recognizable on some blocks, while on others the intricacy of the sculptures make the images less clear. The most interesting one is Piece C which is a figure in the Buddha posture surrounded by countless part-human and part-animal forms. In the Ceremonial Plaza there are various fascinating zoomorphic figures that represent celestial gods. The Acropolis This is the only building which stands out for its size. It was built on the foundations of the oldest buildings.

Río Azul ( RESERVATION FORM )

Río Azul, an isolated site fifty miles (80 km.) northeast of Tikal, almost on the border of Campeche, Mexico, is a dwelling place the Maya established along the river of the same name. Dams, canals, and fortifications are distributed along the shores of this tributary that flows into the Bay of Chetumal. Among the main attractions of the archaeological zone, with more than 5,000 buildings, are a pyramid of 154 feet (47 m.), a funeral chamber from A.D. 400 with murals of great beauty, and a pot with a screw for a lid.

Tamarindito ( RESERVATION FORM )

Accessible only by foot, a small place with a surveillance shelter, is situated on the shore of Lake lago Petexbatún, an hour away from Dos Pilas in the Usumacinta region.

Tayasal ( RESERVATION FORM )

The city of Flores, the capital of the department of El Petén, was built in the site once occupied by Tayasal. Few archaeological vestiges remain on the island and around the lake. The Itza, expelled from Yucatán in the 13th century, arrived in El Petén and grouped together in cities like Tayasal, their capital, which was built on the island of Flores on the shore of Lake Petén Itzá. Hernán Cortés came to the island when he was bound for Honduras, but the thickness of the jungle explains why the Spanish could only dominate the Itza until 1697.

Tikal ( RESERVATION FORM )

A ten-square-mile map (26 sq. km.) of the center of Tikal has been drawn, and it shows 3,000 separate constructions: temples, plazas, sanctuaries, ceremonial platforms, small and medium-size residences, ball courts, terraces, and roads. Concentrated in and around the ceremonial zone are more than 200 stone monuments: sculptures, flat stelae, and altars, to be concise.

Such statistics are a mere suggestion of the magnitude and richness of Tikal, especially when one realizes that only a small portion of the site has been excavated. The massive ruins of Tikal are centered in Tikal National Park. This park of 222 square miles (576 sq. km.) is full of roads and paths leading to all the main archaeological sites.

The Great Plaza is the heart of the ancient city; four great structures surround it. This ceremonial center was used for almost a millenium, even after Tikal was abandoned. The Plaza of the Great Pyramid is one of the oldest monument groups in the city of Tikal, which was built beginning in the late Preclassic period.

Tikal's architecture, science, and art developed mainly between the 3rd century B.C. and the 4th century A.D. In the West Plaza, there are no restored buildings. The inhabitants of the Postclassic period, who rebuilt a great portion of the earliest buildings in the rest of the city, simply added several stelae and altars to the series of late Classic period temples already there.

In the East Plaza, where the Méndez and Maler roads end, Temple 5D-38 and Structure 5D-43, characterized by its Talud-Tabler style, can be seen, along with the unrestored ball game and market constructions. The Plaza of the Great Pyramid, or the Lost World, owes its importance to the presence of the oldest visible building in Tikal, named the Great Pyramid. The Plaza of the Seven Temples, lying east of the Plaza of the Great Pyramid, dates to the Preclassic period and contains three ball-game areas and the still unexcavated Southern Acropolis. The principal temples are described below.

Temple I, of the Great Jaguar: closing the Great Plaza on the east, the temple is 148 feet high (45 m.), and was built around 700 A.D..

Temple II, of the Masks: this temple forms the Great Plaza's west side and is 125 feet high (38 m.).

Temple III, of the Great Priest: located west of Temple II, it is about 165 feet high (50 m.), and it was built around 810 A.D.. An original wood-carved lintel remains with a central figure dressed in a jaguar skin.

Temple IV, of the Two-headed Serpent, is situated west of the Great Plaza, and at 213 feet (65 m.), is the highest structure of Tikal. Visitors can go up to the base of the cresting and enjoy a beautiful view of Tikal.

Temple V, to the south of the Central Acropolis, is 187 feet high (57 m.) and was built around 750 A.D.. Temple VI, of the Inscriptions, lies at the far south end of the Méndez road. Its cresting contains the longest hieroglyphic text in Tikal. In front of the temple are Stela 21 and Altar 9. Currently in Tikal there are three groups of buildings, each of which have been named an acropolis.

The North Acropolis is located north of the Great Plaza. Diverse ceremonial structures, as well as the figureheads of Structure 5D-33, can be observed there. The Central Acropolis, south of the Great Plaza, holds residential and administrative structures: buildings with several rooms and levels like the Palace of the Stormy Sky, Maler Palace, and the Five Stories Palace. The southern border is formed by the palace's reservoir or watering hole.

The South Acropolis is a zone which still has not been investigated. It lies between Temple V and the Plaza of the Seven Temples. Other places of interest: The Palace of the Bat, also called the Palace of Windows, is the only restored building, although the second floor disappeared after the city was abandoned. Complex N and Stela 16 are twin pyramids with a perfect bas-relief of Ah Cacau and a picture and text referring to his wife at the bottom of an altar.

Topoxté ( RESERVATION FORM )

Topoxté is a Postclassic city resting on one of the Lake Yaxhá islands, and it has buildings similar to those in Tulúm, in Yucatán, Mexico. To reach Topoxté, a dirt road going to Tikal must be taken from El Remate, at the end of Lake Petén Itzá. The road is open all year, and the trip takes approximately one hour.

Uaxactún ( RESERVATION FORM )

Uaxactún owes its name (Uaxac = eight; tun = stone) to the fact that Morley discovered a stela with a date beginning with the number eight there. It is thought that Uaxactún was a fairly important city much earlier than the date on the stela since pieces of older stelae have been found. Beautiful vessels of Mayan art have also been found at this site, where the solstice and equinox phenomena may be observed at the first Maya astronomical complex. The site's location proves it to be the most ancient Maya city, and it is believed to be the place the Maya consolidated their culture, perfected their writing system, and began to create their calendar. Located 15 miles (24 km.) north of Tikal, Uaxactún is accessible only in summer, but it can also be reached on an unpaved road by jeep from Flores.

Yaxhá ( RESERVATION FORM )

The acropolis and plazas of Yaxchá, nineteen miles (30 km.) to the southeast of Tikal, are connected by sacbés (roads). The hieroglyphics indicate that it was inhabited in the early Classic and late Classic periods. In contrast to the majority of ceremonial centers of the Classic period in which an urban design is detected, Yaxhá has two sections of different quadrangular structures lined up in such a way that they form a network of streets. This characteristic, along with the fact that the influence of Teoatihuacán is present in the stelae and the architecture, makes it seem likely that the street design was adopted from that place. The unpaved road to Yaxhá begins in Flores.

Zaculeu ( RESERVATION FORM )

Two-and-a-half miles (4 km.) from the department capital of Huehuetenango, this archaeological site of a Mam city was fortified, as with almost all late Postclassic cities (1250-1524). A small museum here has exhibits of pottery and human bones. Along with Nebaj, Zaculeu and Kaminal Juyú were contemporaneous settlements of the Classic era, and these two cities shared many traits. The archaeological zone lies about two miles (3 km.) from Huehuetenango. Zaculeu was one of the Mayan cities que Pedro de Alvarado attacked ruthlessly until it fell in 1525. In 1946 and 1947 the following structures were restored: Structure 1, the largest of the settlement; Structure 13, which still shows traces of paint; and Structure 4, next to which ceremonies and festivities took place. In numerous places buried ceramics and other diverse objects have been found in Zaculeu along with a great amount of carved pyrite, a mineral as hard as jade. Initially, in the early Classic period (A.D. 400 to 700), Zaculeu was influenced by Teotihuacan, but in the late Classic era it relates much more closely to the Gulf of Mexico coastal cultures, primarily with El Tajín.