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Guatemala Mayan Ruins categories are, Guatemala Mayan Ruins categories are, Location, Who Were the MayaAlta Verapaz, Ancient Maya Achievements, Chimaltenango, Todos Santos, Quetzaltenango, Totonicapan, Chichicastenango, Santiago Atitlan, San Antonio Palopo, Santa Catarina Palopo, Panjachel, Solola, Baja Verapaz, Antigua, Copán, Quiriguá, Uaxactún, Yaxhá, .Aguateca,Dos Pilas, & Tamaridito, Ceibal, Tikal National Park, El Petén..

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    Information on the Ancient Maya Civilization

    The Maya World defines the geographical boundaries of the ancient Maya empire which spread through the countries of Guatemala, Belize, El Salvador, western Honduras and the five Mexican states of Yucatán, Quintana Roo, Tabasco, Campeche and Chiapas. The total area is around 500,000 square kilometers.

    Who Were the Maya...

    The Maya were one of the most brilliant and powerful cultures known to Mesoamerica, indeed their civilization spanned a period of 3,000 years. They had a written language, were skilled architects, adventurous traders and gifted artisans. They lived in an agrarian society and had a well-developed religious system which venerated the cosmos. Royal dynasties spawned rulers who built the exotic temples and commanding ceremonial centers which still stand today. 

    Maya civilization is divided into three different time periods. The Pre-Classic spanned the years 2000 B.C. - 250 A.D.; the Classic the years between 250 A.D. - 900 A.D. and the Post-Classic dated from 900 A.D. - 1500 A.D., just prior to the arrival of the Spanish conquistadors in the New World. The Maya reached their peak during the Classic period when they produced some of their most extraordinary works. By the time the Europeans arrived, the empire had mysteriously disintegrated and what was left of it was weak and in disarray. Many Maya groups, however, continued to defend their homeland against the invaders and refused to give up their ancient beliefs. Indeed, centuries of Spanish rule could not eliminate their language, traditional dress or religious ceremonies, and today visitors have the opportunity to meet the modern-day Maya.

    Ancient Maya Achievements...

    Now considered one of the most advanced civilizations ever to exist in ancient America, the Maya are credited with a series of astonishing breakthroughs. Their civilization endured for more than 3,000 years, from around 2,000 B.C. to 1521 A.D. Mayan history is divided into three periods: Pre-Classic, from 2000 B.C. to 250 A.D., Classic (when the Maya reached their peak), from 250 A.D. to 900 A.D. and the Post-Classic or period of decline, from 900 A.D. to 1521 A.D. when Spanish rule of Mexico began. 

    They were characterized by: 

    • monumental-style architecture set in urban and ceremonial centers.
    • an empire controlled by a network of city-states with dense populations.
    • a well-ordered social class system with defined occupations and trades.
    • a system of hieroglyphic writing, the use of codex ( bark paper books) and a calendar.
    • development of arts and sciences such as medicine.
    • trade carried on within a wide sphere. Commercial routes extended from the Maya World north to Central Mexico and south as far as Panama.
    • an agrarian society based on the cultivation of corn. Irrigation was practised in some areas.
    • a well-defined religious system based on the cosmos and nature which required honoring the god of the sun, moon, rain and corn, for example.
    Apart from social and political policies, the most dramatic achievements of the culture included a calendar which was infinitely more accurate than the Gregorian in use today, the invention of the "zero" in their mathematical system and the development of astronomy and astrology to a high science by charting the movements of the sun, moon and stars. 

    The Maya were also very creative and excelled in sculpture, painting, pottery and other arts. The carved facades of their temples and palaces rival those of ancient Greece and Rome and the jade artifacts, polychrome ceramics and bone carvings found at sites throughout the area are eloquent testimony to their skills. 

    El Petén...

    The northernmost department of Guatemala, was once the center of the ancient Maya people. Reminders and remains of this civilization are found in over 200 distinct archaeological sites within an area covering more than 125,000 square miles and five countries. 

    Today, we still call this "El Mundo Maya" (the World of the Maya). The area encompasses not only Guatemala, but parts of Belize, Mexico, Honduras and El Salvador

    The development of the Maya culture cover three periods: (1) Pre-classic from 2000 BC to 300 AD, (2) Classic from 300 to 900 AD, and (3) Post-classic from 900 to 1500 AD. 

    The sciences of mathematics, astronomy, agriculture and architecture were astutely developed by the Maya who also made great strides in the complex areas of socio-politics and economics. The hieroglyphics they developed to convey their thoughts have not yet been totally deciphered and are found in their codex, stelae and monuments as well as in the evolution of their ethical, aesthetic and religious thinking. 

    Many of the Indian dialects presently spoken by the different ethnic groups in Guatemala have a common linguistic root: the Maya. 

    Tikal National Park                  (More about Tikal National Park)

    The park covers 222 square miles amidst the thick, tropical jungle of El Petén and is the only place in the world designated by UNESCO as both a cultural and natural heritage. 

    The easiest access to the park is by air. It is just a 20-minute flight from Guatemala City to the airport of Santa Elena. From there you can reach Tikal in 45 minutes over an excellent highway. 

    There are more than 4,000 structures or constructions in Tikal. The oldest date from the Pre-classic period (800 BC), and the most recent from the Post-classic period (900 AD). It was during this period that the Maya attained their artistic, architectural, mathematic, agricultural and commercial heights. 

     Ceibal                      (More about Ceibal, Guatemala)

    This site is located in the southwestern part of El Petén on the shores of La Pasion River. The most beautiful and best preserved stelae of the Post-classic period can be found here along with ceramic pieces and anthropomorphic pottery figurines. The origin of the founders is still unknown, but the first settlements date back as far as 800 BC. 

    Aguateca, Dos Pilas and Tamarindito   (More about Aguateca)

    These important sites are nestled in a small lagoon that is reachable by water craft. For the Maya enthusiast and nature lovers, a tour of one or more of these sites is a must. 


    The city is comprised of two sectors of rectangular structures laid in such a manner that they form streets and plazas. Yaxhá is located 50 miles from Flores. The hieroglyphic inscriptions indicate that it was inhabited sometime between the Pre-classic and Post-classic periods. 


    The oldest of the Maya cities, it is believed that this is where the Maya consolidated their culture; here their writing system was perfected and where their calendar started. Located about 16 miles north of Tikal, it is accessible from Flores. Discovered in 1916, it bloomed during the Classic period. A beautiful painted mural was discovered in one of the structures and here you will also find the oldest Maya stelae dated about 328 BC. 

    Quiriguá                   More about Quiriguá, Guatemala

    Located near Puerto Barrios, in the Motagua Valley, this is a site noted for its spectacular stelae, large zoomorphal stones and a temple. 

    Copán         More about Copán, Honduras

    Located just over the border in Honduras, Copán is reached either by road or air from Guatemala City. The small town adjacent to the ruins is lovely and has a full range of accommodations. 

    Antigua          More about Antigua, Guatemala

    Less than an hour southwest of Guatemala City is located the famous and fabled town of La Antigua Guatemala in the Department of Sacatepequez. Some of the town has been restored to its colonial splendor while other parts show the devastation of the earthquake which destroyed the town in 1773. Handicraft and jade shops abound in the town also notable for its Holy Week celebration held the week before Easter. Indian villages of interest surrounding Antigua include San Felipe, San Juan del Obispo, Santo Maria de Jesus, San Antonio Aguas Calientes and Santa Catarina Barahona. 

    Baja Verapaz

    The town of Rabinal, located in this department, is known for its pre-Hispanic ceramic production as well as for the beauty of its hand-painted calabash gourds using the "nij" technique. San Miguel Chicaj is known for the quality and the beauty of its textiles. 


    This town is located in the highlands 84 miles from Guatemala City. Market days are Tuesday and Friday, and it is the major market in the area. Its major festival, Nim Ajij Solola (Grand Day of Solola), is celebrated on August 15th. 

    Panajachel          More about Panajachel

    The main tourist center of this region is Panajachel, located on the shores of Lake Atitlan. The town dates back to pre-Columbian times, and today is a lively resort community of hotels, restaurants and shops. It is also the hub where visitors can travel by boat to other villages around the lakeshore. 

    Santa Catarina Palopo

    The main attraction in this village, located about two miles from Panajachel, is the colorful costumes worn by its inhabitants. The women's dress consists of three pieces, all woven on a backstrap loom. The "huipil"has colorful embroidered geometric patterns which are repeated, in the design of the men's trousers. 

    San Antonio Palopo

    Located five miles from Panajachel, the village of San Antonio Palopo can be reached by either boat or car. The inhabitants, of Cakchiquel origin, are mainly involved in agriculture and the production of mats and fiber goods which are woven from reeds harvested directly from the lake. 

    Santiago Atitlan

    This is the largest and most traditional of the lake towns. It is reached by boat from Panajachel. The inhabitants are of Tzutugil origin with a demonstrated talent for the arts: oil and water painting and carved sculptures. The women wear a distinctive halo-type headdress created by winding a long ribbon around the crown of their heads. 

    Other villages on the lake shore are San Lucas Toliman, San Pedro, San Juan, Santa Ana, San Pablo, San Marcos and Santa Cruz La Laguna. The inhabitants of these villages engage mostly in agriculture and fishing as well as the production of textiles and woven baskets. 


    Santo Tomas Chichicastenango, known for its Indian market held every Thursday and Sunday, is only 87 miles from Guatemala City. It is the commercial center of the Department of Quiche. 

    Indigenous people from throughout the region stream into town on market days to buy, sell, socialize and worship. Add the tourists attracted to the market from all over the world, and you have the colorful outdoor spectacle which has made Chichicastenango one of the world's popular tourist destinations. 

    While buyers and sellers bargain for items such as produce, flowers and handicrafts, Mayan-Christian rites are practiced by devout Indians on the steps of the Santo Tomas and Señor Sepultado del Calvario churches which face on either end of the market plaza. 


    The Department of Totonicapan is due west of Chichicastenango. The capital, San Miguel, is located 135 miles northwest of Guatemala City. Over 40 textile, wooden toy and pottery factories are located there. The nearby town of Momostenango is a major producer of woolen blankets and the famous Momosteco poncho. The village of San Francisco El Alto also has a number of attractions. Friday is the market day in this village. Other towns of interest in Totonicapan are Andres Xecul, where the church has a facade that reproduces the design in the huipil worn by the local women, and San Cristobal, where the church is richly decorated with 17th and 18th century religious objects. 


    Quetzaltenango, Guatemala's second largest city, is 128 miles northwest of Guatemala City. Situated in a large valley surrounded by mountains and volcanoes, this highland city maintains the traditions of its Mayan-Quiche cultural heritage together with its colonial past and dynamic modern life. 

    Two principal Indian towns in the region are Salcaja and Zunil.

    Todos Santos

    Further north, atop the Cuchumatanes mountain range, is the Indian village of Todos Santos Cuchumatan. Located about 31 miles north of Huehuetenango, the village is known for the brilliant colors in its costumes and the traditions centered around its annual festival held around November 1st. 


    Thirty-five miles northwest of Guatemala City, Chimaltenango is located in the highlands of the Sierra Madre. The surrounding terrain is broken with deep ridges, beautiful valleys and extensive plains. 

    The villages here are of Cakchiquel origin. Santa Apolonia is a center for the production of pre-Hispanic type ceramic. Comalapa is an important center for popular Indian painting. Patzun is known for the Corpus Christi festivities the first week of June. 

    Alta Verapaz

    The department of Alta Verapaz is about 134 miles due north of Guatemala City. The descendants living there are of the Maya-Kekchi group. The towns of Tactic and San Pedro Carcha are famous for their silver jewelry. The textiles produced in San Juan Chamelco utilize the "tzu 'bil" technique of braiding or twisting. The designs feature figures of ducks, pineapples and butterflies. Coban is the capital of this department. 
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