El Mirador - An early Maya city buried in the jungle (31 May)
Interesting Facts about El Mirador
THE REMAINS OF EL MIRADOR lie deep in the Guatemalan jungle. Often called the cradle of Maya civilization, El Mirador began its rise to prominence around the sixth century B.C. and peaked about 300 B.C. Its population hit perhaps a quarter of a million people before it started to decline.
La Danta is El Mirador’s most significant structure and one of the largest pyramids in the world. It rises 230 feet (70 m) from the jungle floor in three tiers, a configuration researchers believe represented Maya astrological beliefs.
The leading theory for the city’s demise is actually related to the architecture that made it so grand. Walls, pyramids, and palaces were decorated in a lime stucco produced by burning limestone. To fuel those fires, the people deforested the land and erosion then filled the region’s vast swamps—from which the Maya had collected mud to fertilize their agricultural fields—with clay. Deprived of their food source, the Maya abandoned the city around the ninth century A.D. The jungle reclaimed El Mirador, and though a surveyor reported seeing ruins in the 1880s, it was another 40 years before the city was officially discovered. Much of the sprawling 14-square-mile (36 km2) complex remains overgrown.