Tikal- Ancient Places

Top Ancient Places to Visit in North and Central America

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From the Norsemen to the Mayans, discover some of the amazing ancient historical sites of the North and Central America. Unleash your adventurer spirit and consider visiting these off the beaten ancient ruins to unveil some mysteries!

L’Anse aux Meadows

Way long before Christopher Columbus, a band of Norsemen from Greenland set sail to the east coast of North America. These adventurous seafarers embarked at an unsheltered cove in the northern tip of Newfoundland, and what we call it now is the L’Anse aux Meadows. It is believed that the name of this region is a misinterpreted version of the French name ‘L’Anse aux Méduses’ (Jellyfish Cove). Probably, due to its verdant grassland, the shift from Méduses to “Meadows” may have occurred.

However, there is another version of this ‘name’ story. In 1960,  some archaeological artifacts were discovered at L’Anse aux Meadows by a team of Norwegian explorers and archaeologist. They came to know about this place from the Icelandic Sagas called Vinland, which was wrongly taken for a wine-land. However, the team believed that Vinland might probably mean ‘land of meadows’. This is probably how the region got its name.

The site has an informative and entertaining interpretive center, where you will learn a great deal about the Norsemen presence in this secluded area. There are artifacts which date back to the 11th century. Expect to find some intriguing ruins, a carpentry, and a metalworking site as well.

The site marked a huge historical significance in the human history, as it bears witness of a  first European settlement, though for a short period of time. L’Anse aux Meadows was named as a World Heritage Site in 1978.

image: Scott Baljes

Anasazi Ruins in Utah-Cedar Mesa

With a vast dry and deserted terrain adorned by majestic mesas and sandstones escarpments, along with the awe-inspiring canyons, get ready to explore the Cedar Mesa in southeastern Utah. Besides, its peculiar dry landscapes, this secluded region is home to an eclectic range of Anasazi ruins-a pre-Columbian Native American civilisation. The Anasazi equally known as the Puebloans were spread across Utah, Colorado, Arizona, and New Mexico since 1 A.D till 1300 A.D.

Initially, they were hunters and gatherers, but then around 300-600 A.D, they started building pit-houses. These cliff dwellers developed the plantation of crops such as squash, beans, and corns. They were also talented since you can find petroglyphs and pictographs dated between 2000-800 years ago. By 1300 A.D the Puebloans mysteriously abandoned their habitat and moved towards northern Mexico, into the Rio Grande Valley. Unfortunately, the majority of the ruins are not protected, so it is recommended to take cautious care while visiting the place.

image: Slazie

Ancient Places in Mexico

Palenque

Get ready to immerse yourself in an epic journey of the Mayan civilisation in the dense Lacandon rainforest in Chiapas, the southeast part of Mexico. Here, you will be greeted by the howler monkeys and the incredible toucans, along with the misty verdant forest. Palenque is also known as Lakam Ha, which can be translated as ‘Big Water’ due to the numerous springs and creeks present in this area.

The gem of this region is the Palenque Mayan ruin, which was rebuilt by K’inich Janaab’ Pakal, who ruled from 615 to 683 at the age of 12. Sprawling ruins cover over 15 km², only 10 % of it has been excavated. The Palenque ruins consist of temples and plazas, including the tomb of the ruler Pakal covered by a jade mosaic mask over his face. Witness the exquisite work of this ancient civilisation through its architecture, inscriptions, bas-relief carvings, and roof comb.

image: Carlos Adampol
Teotihuacán

If you want to experience the realm of the ‘ancient Gods’, then you need to visit the world’s third largest pyramids- The pyramid of the Sun in Teotihuacán. Teotihuacán is located some 50 km northeast of the Mexico City. The site has a total surface of 83 square kilometers and is protected by the UNESCO World Heritage Site.

This metropolis showcases some of the most enduring Mesoamerican pyramids erected in the first century. Teotihuacán was a name given by the Aztecs speaking Nahuatl around 550 AD when the city was abandoned. The name suggests the ‘birthplace of the gods’, thus a sacred place which was probably built by the Toltecs.  It was also used as a reference for the whole civilization and its culture.

Teotihuacán was once a populous sophisticated city, which was composed of multi-floor apartment compounds in order to accommodate the large population. The highlights of this ancient city are the Pyramid of the Sun (Pirámide del Sol), and the Pyramid of the Moon (Pirámide de la Luna). Another fascinating structure is the Temple of the Feathered Serpent or the Temple of Quetzalcoatl, which is located at the South of Avenue of the Dead. There are more than hundred sacrificial victims buried beneath the structure.

image: Michel Sauval

Tikal- Guatemala

In the misty Petén rainforest, discover the lush environment with its mystifying Mayan ruins of the glorious city of Tikal. The metropolis was discovered in the 1840s and was named Tikal, which means ‘waterhole’.  This ancient site is nestled 303 km north of the Guatemala city and covers more than 16 km2 with over 2000 ancient structures.

As per the ancient inscriptions, the city was called ‘Yax Mutul’, which means  ‘hair bundle’ It is believed that the city was created around 600 B.C suggesting the classic period of the Mayan civilization. During this period the Mayans were producing great artworks and architectures.

It was a time when the city was flourishing and occupied about 90,000 inhabitants.  It is believed that the inhabitants were interacting with the distant metropolis Teotihuacan, which later conquered Tikal in the 4th century. This led to the burning of the major structures and gradually around the 10th century, the city was already abandoned.

Arriving at this ancient site, you will likely experience the stillness of time. Take the chance to marvel at the stupefying structures of the Great Plaza, pyramids, temples, and burials. You will come across the Temple of the Great Jaguar dating around 734 A.D, which was dedicated to Jasaw Chan K’awil. This funerary pyramid measures about 47 meters. It has a huge roof-comb embellished with the giant sculpture of the king. The tallest temple-pyramid measures 70 meters, which is the Temple of Yik’in Chan Kawil (Son of Jasaw Chan k’awil). Among the many structures, find the Twin-Pyramid complexes, and monuments encrypted with hieroglyphic texts.

image: Ron North

 

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