The discovery that rewrites the history of Tikal, the most famous Guatemalan Mayan city

The discovery that rewrites the history of Tikal, the most famous Guatemalan Mayan city
The discovery that rewrites the history of Tikal, the most famous Guatemalan Mayan city

Tikal is the largest of the ancient Mayan cities and its ruins are one of the most popular tourist destinations in Guatemala, as well as a World Heritage Site.

Its history has long been a mystery, as ancient and fascinating as the civilization it represents. One of the few certainties has always been the day of his “end”: on January 16, 378, foreigners arrived in the city and, taking advantage of the king’s death, placed the conqueror’s son on the throne, newly married to an unfortunate daughter of the deceased king.

Everyone agrees that the foreign invaders came from Teotihuacan, a metropolis a thousand kilometers away, near what is now Mexico City, famous for its towering pyramids. Now, however, archaeologists have discovered Teotihuacan relics and architecture dating back at least a century before the invasion. But how is this possible?

The most reliable hypothesis is that Tikal was actually a Teotihuacan outpost and that the invasion of “foreigners” was only the return of the rightful king. This reinforces the idea that the Teotihuacan empire was born of an alliance that was later destroyed and could shed light on the crucial moment when the allies became enemies.

The beauty of Tikal, the most famous Guatemalan Mayan city

The discovery comes thanks to a geological investigation with lidar that began in 2018, but the investigations were delayed by the pandemic and the announcement was made in recent days by Edwin Román Ramírez, archaeologist of the Foundation for Maya Cultural and Natural Heritage. “In the southern part of the city, where the maps once pointed to a simple hill, the radars revealed a large enclosed courtyard with a pyramid on the eastern side. When we took a closer look at the images, we noticed that it was a miniature version of the citadel of Teotihuacan ». In short, a great surprise.

“We can’t say for sure that the people who built it were from Teotihuacan,” adds Ramírez. “But they were certainly people who were very familiar with that culture, even worshiped the rain god himself.” To get more evidence, his team will study the isotopes of the burial, which can reveal where a person lived at different times in their life. But he has no doubts that the two civilizations knew each other and got along well, until something went wrong. “What,” however, is the mystery that remains to be solved.

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