by Emily S. Jacobs

A place where stone scrapes sky. Where jungle presses in in a heartbeat to reclaim what once belonged to it. A city, deserted by time, and forgotten for centuriesÖ

This is the city of Tikal. Here, the Mayan people lived for centuries, only to mysteriously desert their home, seemingly without reason. Tikal is located in Guatemala, not far from the Belizean border.

It was a spectacular city, as cities go. Located in present day Guatemala, there are over 3,000 structures in this six square mile metropolis. Among these structures are great stone temples, altars, stelae, and ancient ballcourts.

No one is quite sure why Tikal was built. It was not designed for a great number of people, yet sources say that from 10,000 to 100,000 people lived there at the cityís height. Some believe that it is a religious center, others say the temples served as observatories to view the celestial bodies of the heavens.

In the game Tikal players must navigate their way through the ruins to seek the buried treasure within.

Tikal is now a popular tourist spot. A national park, it attracts people from all over the world. There is a ten-dollar (US) admission fee, which gets you in for the entire day. While the park opens at six, many sneak in earlier, to see the sunrise and early morning bird life.

Inside the park itself, there are two motels, several restaurants, and a museum, including a scale model of Tikal.

When discovered in 1848, it was hard to believe that Tikal was once a buzzing metropolis. Jungle vines, trees and creepers had come in and taken over.

Tikalís Temple of the Jaguar
(before and after excavation, respectively)

While most of the big temples have now been excavated and can be seen in their original glory, still at least one still remains untouched. This is temple IV, the tallest of all the structures in Tikal.

Because Tikal is now a national park, extreme care must be taken before they do further excavation, which might harm part of the virgin forest.

Many visitors to Tikal stand and stare before some square topped hills. Under these, a temple still exists, though now it is not visible.

In one of the temples, the Temple of Inscriptions, there are many hieroglyphs that have been painted on the walls. These are part of the Mayan language, one of the very few languages in history started completely on its own.

Mayan Glyphs

The Maya are an intriguing people. Though they developed a form of writing, most of their works were burned. They present many mysteries to us. One of these is why Tikal was deserted. There is no record of why they should leave, and no reason that we can think of.

Tikal, with its proud towers and moss-covered grounds serves as a remembrance to these people, this city that time forgot.

Sources: "Tikal- Tradepoint Guatemala Network" @, 12/15/99.
  "Projects: Tikal, a place in Central America." @, 12/15/99.
  "NOVA Online/Search for the Lost Cave People/Tikal" @, 12/15/99.

Picture Credits:

Image #1: "Takal" from:

Image #2: "Nagoya EJF Game" from:

Images #3 and #4: "Tikalís Temple of the Jaguar" from:

Images #5 and #6: "Mayan Glyphs" from: