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Archaeologists working in Tikal during the 20th century refurbished one of these ancient reservoirs to store water for their own use.

Tikal is the best understood of any of the large lowland Maya cities, with a long dynastic ruler list, the discovery of the tombs of many of the rulers on this list and the investigation of their monuments, temples and palaces.The name Tikal may be derived from ti ak'al in the Yucatec Maya language; it is said to be a relatively modern name meaning "at the waterhole".Jaguars, jaguarundis, and cougars are also said to roam in the park.For centuries this city was completely covered under jungle.Though monumental architecture at the site dates back as far as the 4th century BC, Tikal reached its apogee during the Classic Period, c. During this time, the city dominated much of the Maya region politically, economically, and militarily, while interacting with areas throughout Mesoamerica such as the great metropolis of Teotihuacan in the distant Valley of Mexico.

There is evidence that Tikal was conquered by Teotihuacan in the 4th century AD.

It was created on under the auspices of the Instituto de Antropología e Historia and was the first protected area in Guatemala.

The population of Tikal began a continuous curve of growth starting in the Preclassic Period (approximately 2000 BC – AD 200), with a peak in the Late Classic with the population growing rapidly from AD 700 through to 830, followed by a sharp decline.

At this time, Tikal participated in the widespread Chikanel culture that dominated the Central and Northern Maya areas at this time – a region that included the entire Yucatan Peninsula including northern and eastern Guatemala and all of Belize.

Two temples dating to Late Chikanel times had masonry-walled superstructures that may have been corbel-vaulted, although this has not been proven.

However, some archaeologists, such as David Webster, believe these figures to be far too high.