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So Long Ago
Photograph - Photography
"SO LONG AGO" by KAREN WILES
My husband and I flew in a private Cessna 172 into Flores, Guatamala.
We flew in very low over the rainforest canopy in order to capture this image of the Tekal Ruin temples rising above the Canopy tree lines.
Tikal (tee-KAL) is a ruined Maya city located in the northern Pet province of Guatemala. During the heyday of the Maya Empire, Tikal was a very important and influential city, controlling vast stretches of territory and dominating smaller city-states. Like the rest of the great Maya cities, Tikal fell into decline around 900 A.D. or so and was eventually abandoned. It is currently an important archaeological and tourism site.
The Maya civilization began to crumble around 700 A.D. and by 900 A.D. or so it was a shadow of its former self. Teotihuacán, once such a powerful influence on Maya politics, itself fell into ruin about 700 and was no longer a factor in Maya life, although its cultural influences in art and architecture remained. Historians disagree on why the Maya civilization collapsed: it may have been due to famine, disease, warfare, climate change or any combination of those factors. Tikal, too, declined: the last recorded date on a Tikal monument is 869 A.D. and historians think that by 950 A.D. the city was essentially abandoned.
Tikal was never completely "lost:" locals always knew of the city throughout the colonial and republican eras. Travelers occasionally visited, such as John Lloyd Stephens in the 1840's, but Tikal's remoteness (getting there entailed several days' trek through steamy jungles) kept most visitors away. The first archaeological teams arrived in the 1880's, but it wasn't until an airstrip was built in the early 1950's that archaeology and study of the site began in earnest. In 1955, the University of Pennsylvania began a long project at Tikal: they remained until 1969 when the Guatemalan government began research there.
September 7th, 2012
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