Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Part III: The Great Pyramid

March 20, 2013
El Mirador

After spending the previous night at the camp close to the main ceremonial center of El Mirador, we finally headed off to explore the rest of the gigantic site. Watching sunrise on the morning of the Spring Equinox from the top of the great pyramid of El Tigre, we were surprised to observe the sun rising a few degrees to the left of the pyramid of La Danta. For some reason, we expected to see a somehow exact alignment on the day of the Spring Equinox, which however did not occur. We had no instrument to measure the angle that the sun formed with the pyramid of La Danta as seen from El Tigre, yet it could have been somewhere in the order of 4 or 5 degrees. Certainly further research will be needed on the point of solar and astronomic alignments at El Mirador. 
The sun rises over the jungle on the morning of the Spring Equinox. The great pyramid of LaDanta, shrouded in the morning mist, lies a few degrees to the South from a perfect alignment with the rising Sun as seen from the pyramid of El Tigre
A reconstruction drawing at the bottom of the pyramid of El Tigre illustrates the complex layout of structures and plazas sorrounding the great triadic pyramid in the middle. All the pictures that follow were taken from on top of the uppermost platform circled in the diagram. The Orion correlation theory is also illustrated above, both in the general layout of the structures on the ground and by the angle formed between the three triadic pyramids on top. 
The first rays of the Sun hit the tip of the main triadic pyramid on the uppermost truncated platform of El Tigre.  Recent excavations have revealed a well preserved stone stairway beneath the centuries old structure, now covered with plastic sheets as a protection from the weather. 
Two smaller pyramids rise on both sides of the main pyramid on the uppermost platform,  forming the usual triadic pattern believe to represent the sacred triangle of the constellation of Orion - the place of Origins. Recent excavations have exposed much of the original stonework and part of the stuccoed decoration of this smaller pyramid. 
The three triadic pyramids rest on a gigantic truncated platform forming the complex of El Tigre.  This platform, more than 50 meters high, is the third largest in El Mirador after that of La Danta and the Central Acropolis, and the second highest. It could easily contain the whole Grand Plaza of Tikal. 
A map and panel welcomes visitor at the entrance to the main ceremonial center of El Mirador.
        Short after descending from the pyramid of El Tigre, we encounter Structure 34, also called “Templo Garra de Jaguar – Jaguar’s Paw Temple” because of the stuccoed decorations on the outside. It is one of the most iconic structures at El Mirador, and one of the earliest discovered and to be cleared of vegetation. In spite of its relatively small size, this temple must have played a very important role in royal rituals at El Mirador. Construction of the structure was probably started in 300 BC, even though the temple bears traces of having been built on top of an earlier structure. This temple reveals the full complexity reached by Pre-classic architecture, almost 1000 years earlier than it had been previously thought possible in the lowlands of Guatemala. The upper platform consists of a large temple that must have had a corbel ceiling, and two smaller altar-temples forming a triadic structure (one of the earliest known examples of this arrangement). The stuccoed decoration consists of large glyphs in the shape of a Jaguar’s paw and giant masks, possibly portraying rulers. Traces of red paint can still be seen on top of the stucco. Evidence suggests that a ruler by the name of Yok'noom Yi'ch'ak K'ak or "Great Flaming Jaguar Claw” was responsible for the construction of this temple as a dynastic shrine. At some point, probably around 100 BC, the whole structure was buried underneath a new masonry fill and re-oriented on a North-South axis following the re-arrangement of the grand plaza facing the pyramid of El Tigre. Excavations carried out near the base of the monument have revealed traces of much earlier structures. Archaeologist Richard Hansen found the remains of a wall that must have been buried some time after 200 BC. According to Hansen, “It's a triadic structure 17 meters high that is burying an even older building. […]This is an exposed wall. This has not seen the sun's light since 200 years before Christ. But when they buried it [the Maya], it was already in bad shape”. [1] At the time of our visit, a tunnel could be seen cut into the bedrock at the base of the monument, bearing all characteristics of ancient construction. According to our guide, archaeologists believe this tunnel, whose excavation is still undergoing, may lead to a royal grave deep within the structure, possibly that of the same king “Great Flaming Jaguar Claw” recorded in glyphs found inside the Temple. In 2008, conservation experts at the Mirador National Park erected a large metal and polycarbonate structure to shelter the temple and its fragile stucco decoration from the heavy rains that frequently occur in the region.  

Temple 34, originally facing a large plaza adjoining the pyramid of El Tigre and the Central Acropolis, dates to the pre-classic period and contains some of the earliest and best preserved stuccoed decorations in the Maya world. The giant glyph, repeated on both sides of the entrance stairway, is in fact a depiction of a Jaguar's claw, probably a dynastic symbol of the rulers of Mirador. 
On each side of the stairway, two stone and stucco masks, each over 3 meters high, depict perhaps  a deified ruler or a God with feline traits and protruding teeth and nose. The jaguar's claw glyphs to the left and to the right of each mask are placed in such a way as to resemble giant ears. 
Temple 34 as seen from the uppermost platform, which also contains two smaller pyramids. A modern  polycarbonate structure was built to shelter the delicate stuccoed decorations from the heavy rains.
        As we move further to the East, we approach the great Central Acropolis. Massive mounds covered by dirt and vegetation, some as much as 30 meters high, signal the location of buried pyramids and platforms. The whole Central Acropolis rests on a gigantic platform some 15 to 20 meters above the ground, measuring over 400 meters on its longest side and enclosing an area of some 85,000 m2 comprising over 15 structures.
Structure 313 shares the plaza with two smaller structures (Structures 314 and 315) flanking the main building in the typical triadic pattern. This structure is notable for being one of the few to be partially excavated within the Central Acropolis and for its complex stuccoed decoration. This building, whose earliest layers of occupation date to the early Pre-Classic, seems to have been used as a palace by the aristocratic elite. Several large stone masks decorate the exterior, many of which bearing traces of intentional destruction. 
Structure 313 was a palace for the ruling class, facing the grand Plaza on the central acropolis. It rises in several terraces up to a series of interconnected rooms on the upper platforms. With the exception of the water system, it is the only structure that has been at least partially cleared of dirt and vegetation in the area of the Central Acropolis. 
A large stuccoed stone mask, some 2 meters high, decorates the exterior of Structure 313 on the Central Acropolis.  The mask is again notable for the protruding nose and teeth. During the late pre-classic period, this section of the palace was apparently walled up for no apparent reason, covering much of the original stuccoed decoration that was therefore preserved under the fill. 
        A short distance from Structure 313, on the Central Acropolis, excavations revealed extensive remains of a Water System dating to the Pre-classic period, circa 300-200 BC. During the 2008 field season, excitement mounted as a large stuccoed panel began to emerge from the side of a stairway in a building on the Great Acropolis. The uncovered portion of the panel measures 8 meters long by 6 meters high, and contains depictions of aquatic monsters, fishes, together with an enigmatic figure identified as the "Old God" of Maya mythology and two characters which look as though they were swimming. A large part of the frieze was covered by a stairway built shortly thereafter, probably no later than 200 BC. The two swimming characters were no other than the hero twins of the Popol Vuh, Hunahpu and Ixbalanque. The finding served as a further confirmation of the extremely ancient origins of the Popol Vuh and the Maya myths of creation. In the scene, the twin heroes leave from the Underworld after defeating the Lords of Xibalba, while one of them is carrying the head of their father, Hun Hunahpu. The twin heroes are depicted in the moment of their victory over the Lords of Death, after vindicating their father and about to emerge from the Underworld to turn themselves into the Sun and the Moon. Archaeologists have also uncovered a set of pools complete with locks and drainage channels next to the mural. In the words of Craig Argyle, the archaeologist who first discovered the frieze, “there are no words to describe the beauty this building must have had with its frieze when a part of it was submerged under water, which flowed into the pools below, and where the flow of water allowed passers by to capture the movement of one of the hero twins as he swam upstream”. Other figurations contain an image of the “OId God”, portrayed with the body of a bird and a long beard, and several other images of rain and water deities. According to our guide, an additional layer of the mural, more than 5 meters high, still lays buried beneath the Pre-classic floor, containing a giant Jaguar face mask of which only the upper portion is currently visible.   

The famous frieze of the Twin Brothers from the Popol Vuh decorated the exterior of what must have been a pool of fresh water inside the city's water system. This magnificent relief contains a very complex iconography, with representations of a giant snake and several lesser gods and water creatures. 
        As we leave behind the Central Acropolis and proceed towards the Lion Pyramid, our attention is caught by a number of fragmentary stelae lying on the ground. All of the stelae must have been clearly smashed and broken into pieces as a result of a violent attack. It is still possible to see the scars left on the broken surface of the stelae by some kind of club or weapon. Some of the fragments contain depictions of warriors and a princess making offerings to the effigy of a God or King, which must have originally stood some 2-3 meters high. The few glyphs encountered on the stelae are largely insufficient to reconstruct the history of the rulers depicted. Archaeologist believe that several graffiti found on the stelae, consisting of a couple of round circles connected by lines, are in fact a stylized depiction of the God Tlaloc, the head God of Teotihuacan, probably brought here by invading Teotihuacan warriors - the same who were likely responsible for the stelae desecration.
On the northern side of the Acropolis, a platform built of large flagstones placed in a square arrangement marks the likely coronation spot of the Kings of Mirador and the Kingdom of Kan. From there, the King would have appeared in front of the crowd gathered in the underlying plaza. A large altar with traces of burnt offerings placed in front of a stuccoed throne must have served as the royal seat during the ceremony. Based on the traces of plaster found on the outside of the large flagstones composing the platform, it is likely that each flagstone served as a stela commemorating a specific ruler.   

Shedding light on an ancient mystery. Some of the stelae lie in rows forming a platform that was likely used for the consecration of the kings of Mirador or for public sacrifices. The delicate glyphs can only be seen under particular conditions of light and are barely legible. Still largely undeciphered, they may one day tell the history of this forgotten city and of its kings. 
        From there we moved to the next complex of buildings located next to the Lion Pyramid. This massive structure, more than 50 meters high, is now heavily ruined and still remains unexcavated. The large plaza in front of its Eastern stairway is surrounded by buildings and platforms on all sides. It is believed these structures served as Solstitial and Equinoctial markers, which would make the whole complex a gigantic solar calendar. The very ruined state of these structures does not allow for further speculation until a comprehensive excavation of this compound is carried out. A modern Maya altar was built in the middle of the plaza, where ceremonies are still carried out on specific days of the year - according to our guide.
To the East of the Lion pyramid, several pyramids and mounds comprise the Cascabel Group. The pyramids in this group appear to be steeper than the pyramids in the other groups, and of much more sleek construction. In some places the original stonework is still visible and one can easily make out the contours of the large temples on top from beneath the trees. Many of the walls seem to be built of cemented limestone fragments and smaller stones. However, there are also large limestone walls made of carefully fitted blocks of stone, some of which more than 1 meter long. The most notable pyramid in this group is called the “Little Danta”, because of its similarity to the much larger pyramid of La Danta further to the West. The structure, rising some 35 meters on top of a large platform, has also a triadic temple on top and is accessed by way of a very broad stairway which has been partly cut into the underlying bedrock. Some trenches have been dug at the base of the monuments to uncover the original level floor of the plaza. As of today much of this vast compound remains unexcavated and is still largely covered by vegetation.

The "Little Danta" is in fact a large pyramid approached by a broad stairway resembling that of La Danta. The original masonry consists of large limestone blocks, some of which as much as 2 meters long, carefully arranged in rows and plastered over. 
The pyramids in the Cascabel group are unusually steep and massive. Although still largely covered by dirt and vegetation, traces of the original stonework and limestone masonry are visible near the top and in trenches dug close to the base of the monuments. 
Some of the other pyramids in the Cascabel Group show a different style of construction consisting of massive  retention walls that were later filled with dirt and smaller pebbles. Much of these retention walls still survive intact underneath the jungle canopy.
        The Monos complex, located to the South of the Tigre pyramid, and the Pava group, closer to the great pyramid of La Danta, have been scarcely investigated, even though both pyramids reach an elevation of over 50 meters and face large plazas.
As the heat grows in the afternoon, we take some rest at the Camp eating wild oranges and other fruit gathered along the trail. Shortly thereafter we will be heading to the great pyramid of La Danta, some 4 Km to the East of the Camp and of the main ceremonial center.
Giant entangled tree roots along the ceremonial way to the pyramid of La Danta. Some of these trees can reach as high as a 15 storey building - hiding even the tallest structures from sight. 

The Great Pyramid

The most notable feature along the 4 Km stretch of the trail that separates the main ceremonial center and the Central Acropolis from the pyramid of La Danta, is a large defensive wall pierced by what must have been a fortified gate. The gate is directly connected to the Sacbé leading further East to the pyramid of La Danta and to Nakbé. The defensive wall was apparently surrounded by a moat and possessed several raised platforms serving as towers or observation posts placed at a regular distance from each other. This is a rather unique feature of this site, as very few other Maya cities possessed defensive walls, and almost none possessed towers along the perimeter of the wall. After a further 15-20 minutes’ walk, we finally approach the giant artificial platform supporting the pyramid of La Danta.

The approach to the Great Pyramid of La Danta as seen from below the first terrace. Even from a few hundred meters away, nothing can be seen except the thick jungle canopy hiding the monument from sight.
A very large stairway was partly built and partly cut into the natural bedrock on the approach to the great pyramid of La Danta. 
        The pyramid of La Danta can rightfully claim to be among the largest, if not the largest building in the ancient world by volume, standing at over 2.8 million cubic meters. The dimensions of these monumental complex are impressive: The pyramids itself rests on top of a gigantic platform measuring some 600 by 300 meters, forming a large plaza surrounded by temples and ceremonial structures. Much speculation surrounds the exact nature of this platform, whether entirely artificial or partly natural. If proven to be artificial, it would rank amongst the largest feats of engineering in human history. Accordingly, a similar level of debate surrounds the exact height of the pyramid of La Danta. While prudential estimates put it at 72 meters, this measurement does in fact only refer to the uppermost platform consisting of a giant triadic structure. If the whole four (or five) underlying terraces and platforms are considered, the total height of the monument would surpass 180 meters, making it not only the largest, but also the highest structure in the entire ancient World. Not surprisingly, archaeologist Richard Hansen, referring to the pyramid of La Danta in an interview released to CNN, calls it “An investment of labor unprecedented in the Ancient World”.

Exposed stonework on the sides of the pyramid of La Danta. The massive stone blocks employed in its construction have allowed the uppermost of the three triadic pyramids to survive almost intact over two thousand years of abandonment and weather erosion. 
From the uppermost terrace of La Danta, it is possible to truly appreciate the massive size of the largest triadic pyramid rising some 72 meters above the jungle canopy. The base of the pyramid lies buried over 4 meters below the present day jungle floor. Smaller chamber were added at a time when much of the monument had already collapsed and its base lie covered in a thick layer of debris.
The lower terrace of the pyramid contains further evidence of the massive stonework, together with remains of the original sculptured decoration, here in the shape of a giant mask with the familiar protruding teeth and nose. 
A much poorer quality masonry fill was added to the original limestone core of the pyramid  when new chambers were added to the lower terraces to accomodate a small residential community after the collapse of Mirador and the site abandonment. The contrast with the neatly fitted stones and layers of masonry in the background is striking and testifies to the advanced building techniques already in use during the Pre-Classic period. 
        The largest of the triadic pyramids on the top platform, still partly covered by trees, rises majestically over the jungle canopy. Again, giant stuccoed stone masks decorate the exterior of the pyramid, some of these clearly bearing the marks of violent destruction. The steep stairway that once led to the top of the pyramid has largely collapsed and is too dilapidated to climb. In its place, a wooden scaffolding was built by archaeologists on the opposite side of the pyramid, from which it is possible to reach up to the top of the monument. The view from the top is breathtaking, stretching over literally hundreds of miles of pristine rainforest.  From this vantage point, the contours of the ancient Maya roads and the profile of the distant ruins of Nakbé and Tintal can be clearly made out, fully revealing the true extent of this vast ruined network. Unlike most Maya structures, consisting of relatively small cemented stones, the casing stones of the pyramid of La Danta are massive, some reaching more than 1.5 meters long and very finely fitted together. The beauty of the ancient stonework can be fully appreciated in those parts of the monument that are relatively free from dirt and vegetation.

Again, the sun sets one more time over this city of the dead.          

Long way up. The impressive view over the treetops from the Pyramid of La Danta, possibly the largest in the world.  The pyramid projects a huge looming shadow over the sorrounding jungle, stretching far away as a giant green carpet.
A closer view of the upper terraces of La Danta. Without the protection of the original limestone casing, much of the interior fill has collapsed uncovering the masonry core of the pyramid.
The sun sets over the jungle from the pyramid of La Danta

[1] Mirador National Park website: http://www.miradorpark.com/structure34.htm, retrieved on April 19, 2013.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Part II: The Road to El Mirador

March 19, 2013
Camino El Tintal - Mirador, Petén, Northern Guatemala

A small metal plaque along the ancient Maya road (Sacbè) between Tintal and Mirador marks the entrance of the Mirador National Park and the protected biotope of the Maya rainforest
We leave Tintal in the early morning, after a rich tortilla-based breakfast at the camp. Porters will take care of packing tents and food supplies and loading our equipment on the mules. We will be walking the 28 Km to Mirador mostly along an ancient Sacbé (pl. Sacbeob, meaning white road in the Maya language), a large raised limestone causeway used to connect distant centers. Even though the ancient causeway is now largely overgrown by the jungle, its straight line path is still clearly recognizable as it rises an average of 5 to 7 meters above the surrounding canopy, with a width reaching at times as much as 30 to 40 meters. This way the path was protected from flooding and still retains much of the original impermeable white plaster coating.
Several ancient settlements and fortified guard posts stood along the way. Each guard post had the shape of a vast quadrangle, surrounded by moats. Usually a small raised platform, similar to a truncated pyramid, stood in the middle to serve as an observation post. A Sacbé was clearly first and foremost a communication route connecting distant cities. Yet the scale and the amount of work involved by their construction is staggering even by modern terms. One wonders whether some other function was at play here, something that would also relate the Sacbeob to the stars.   
As we approach the great city of El Mirador, a large number of earth-covered mounds flank the way. A small metal plaque placed along the trail signals the entrance to the protected biotope of the Mirador Basin national park. Near a place called El Paraiso, the ancient Maya causeway reaches its highest elevation, at some 20 meters above the surrounding jungle canopy. Several ancient stone quarries are located in the vicinities of El Paraiso, with large trenches and pits dug into the soft limestone.
A few miles afterwards, the first ruins we encounter are those of La Muerta, once a suburb of the great capital of El Mirador.   

A thick Jungle covers much of the ancient Maya road between Tintal and Mirador. Still, the difference in elevation between the Sacbé and the sorrounding jungle can reach at points up to 20 meters and is usually between 5 and 7 meters. The scale of this ancient ceremonial network is such that it can be still clearly appreciated even from satellite pictures taken from Space.
Within the jungle, it is not unusual to spot a deer or a tapir, or the much more common wild turkey. An estimate of 400 jaguars, the largest population in Central America, live within the boundaries of the Mirador National Park, even though jaguars hardly ever attack humans.
Mules can also be used to ride for part of the trail, especially in the heat of the day  (here with our cocinera Dona Marta). Low branches sticking out of trees and the uneven terrain however require to pay constant attention to the trail ahead.

La Muerta

The ruins of La Muerta consist of a small pyramid and a building interpreted as a palace or temple. The pyramid is striking for its similarity to constructions in Tikal, especially those facing the Plaza of the Seven Temples (see this preceding article for a description of the ruins at Tikal). It has a short, yet very steep stairway, and a temple on top surmounted by a high comb – another characteristic typical of Tikal architecture. This small pyramid provides some interesting insight into the ancient Maya construction techniques. The fill that constitutes the core of the structure is largely made of smaller stones cemented together, while the outer casing has the appearance of finely dressed stone cut into rectangular blocks. Much of the stone required for construction was sourced locally, from large pits and quarries dug into the limestone bedrock. Cement was also made by heating limestone with the help of large quantities of charcoal and firewood.

The small pyramid in La Muerta, still partly covered by vegetation, was built in a style which is very much reminescent of similar constructions in Tikal. A short stairway leads to the first terrace, from where a second stairway climbs up to the temple on top, which may have once supported a large comb. The exterior of the building was covered in a fine limestone casing that was then stuccoed over and painted red. 
The other building, similar to a small palace accessed by means of a short stairway, has largely collapsed. The most interesting feature of this compound is a complex of subterranean chambers which still retain much of the original plastering and corbelled vaults. A short descending corridor leads into two interconnected chambers with traces of burials. Several niches or loculi were dug into the walls to host the bodies of the deceased, but they are now mostly filled with rubble. Light and breathable air was provided through some small square openings piercing the thick limestone walls and leading to the outside. Between the 7th and 9th Century, after centuries of abandonment, La Muerta was briefly resettled probably by people from the nearby city of Tikal, who turned most of the temples and pyramids into residential quarters for the nobility.

After passing La Muerta, we encounter one of the many ancient quarries in El Mirador, which is connected to the acropolis by means of a large ramp reaching a considerable height above the canopy. Not far from here a large rock-cut monument lies in fragments amidst the roots of giant trees. The gigantic slab measures more than 4 meters on each side and though broken into pieces still bear the clearly readable contours of a jaguar face and claws. A line of hieroglyphics, some of the oldest ever found at any Maya site, is especially notable for bearing the glyph of the Snake, “Kan” in the ancient Maya language, which associated with the ruling dynasty of Mirador gave its name to the entire kingdom – the Kingdom of Kan – and possibly to its great Capital – the City of the Snake –. 
Our guide Hugo points at lines of ancient hieroglyphics on the great stela of the Kingdom of Kan, which lies broken and scattered into pieces on the jungle floor. The stela is believed to represent a giant jaguar face with a claw ready to strike, possibly a dynastic attribute.

The Kingdom of the Snake

Very little is known on the early history of the Kingdom of Kan in the lowlands of Northern Guatemala. Its earliest capital, Nakbé, was already a major seat of power in the early Pre-Classic period, about 1000 BC. Mirador was probably founded shortly thereafter by people from Nakbé, with Tintal as a satellite city further to the South. No complete king list has been found to reconstruct the history of the Kingdom of Kan, which was apparently one of the most complex and sophisticated Maya states. A number of monuments bearing hieroglyphic inscriptions have been uncovered at Mirador itself and other archaeological sites in the Mirador basin.  A building located close to entrance of the Central Acropolis of El Mirador is of particular interest to the history of the Kingdom of Kan. It has the shape of a large stone platform where a number of stele bearing royal glyphs and stuccoed decorations were apparently encased in the outer masonry. Archeologists think this structure may have served as a coronation platform for the crowning and consecration of kings. They cite as a proof the presence of a large throne carved out of a plastered block of limestone in front of which traces of incense and other burnt offerings have been found. As of today, most of the inscriptions found at El Mirador, some of the earliest known in the entire Maya world, are yet to be deciphered and may yield important clues on the early history of the Kingdom of Kan.
This colossal uninscribed monolith is one of the largest stelae found at El Mirador, weighting several tons.  Being placed on raised ground near one of the entrances to the ancient capital, it was possibly used as an important marker for astronomical observations as it could have been clearly seen from the pyramid of El Tigre and the Central Acropolis.
Elsewhere, a large number of inscribed monuments have been found in various stages of ruin. Most of these seem to have fallen victim of a deliberate destruction, as they were clearly broken and scattered into pieces. Recently, archaeologist Richard Hansen believes he has found proof of a large scale battle fought within the ceremonial center of El Mirador and on top one of its largest pyramid, that of El Tigre. Over 200 obsidian tips were found scattered in various points on top of the great pyramid alone, hinting at a large scale battle fought between a local dynasty and invaders from the Mexican highlands. Analyses suggest that the obsidian came from a source hundreds of miles away in the valley of Mexico, close to the great city of Teotihuacan [1]. This seems to suggest that an alliance of Maya city-states led by Tikal under the influence of Teotihuacan may have been responsible for the sudden collapse of El Mirador in 150 AD. Traces of devastation on an unprecedented scale can be found everywhere in the gigantic site. The stelae and the carved stone monuments were deliberately overthrown and smashed to pieces, while a number of graffiti bearing the effigy of the rain-God Tlaloc are additional evidence of invasion from Teotihuacan. Not even the larger temples were spared: the giant stucco masks decorating the temple facades were broken and vandalized, as were the grand temple stairways and plazas. Entire buildings seem to have been systematically thrown down and destroyed with violence hitherto unknown in the Maya world. Yet hints suggest that Mirador was already a much impoverished city at the time of its collapse in 150 AD, with perhaps only a few thousand people living amidst the ruins of a city that might have been home to hundreds of thousands a mere century before. In the intention of the conquerors, nothing would be allowed to survive to perpetuate the memory of the Kingdom of Kan and its once great capital of Mirador. True to the intentions of its conquerors, Mirador never recovered; its ruins slowly forgotten and taken over by the jungle. Exactly what brought the Kingdom of Kan to an end is not known. There may have been decades of severe draught, or other environmental problems caused by excessive deforestation. Political causes and war with Teotihuacan and neighboring city states for the control over the region may have struck the death blow to the already waning power of El Mirador.   
With the exception of a brief reoccupation of some structures about 700 AD, probably by people from Tikal, Mirador laid abandoned for almost 1300 years until the time of its rediscovery.     


Our final resting point for the day, Camp El Mirador, located right below the Monos complex  at the margin of the great ruined city of El Mirador. No more than a few tents and hammocks. 

[1] Guatemala Mayan City may have ended in Pyramid battle, by Sarah Grainger, Reuters, Thursday September 3, 2009. Retrieved on April 4, 2013. Link: http://in.reuters.com/article/2009/09/03/idINIndia-42207620090903