1. Education
You can opt-out at any time. Please refer to our privacy policy for contact information.

Tikal (Guatemala)


Temple 1 at Tikal in Guatemala

Temple 1 at Tikal in Guatemala

Ryan Weis

The ruins of the Maya civilization city known as Tikal are located in the rain forest of the central Peten peninsula of Guatemala. The earliest dates from Tikal are Middle Formative (beginning about 800 BC), and the site was constantly occupied until about AD 900. It grew to prominence during the Late Formative and Early Classic periods, and its heyday was between AD 682 and 800.

Archaeology at Tikal

Archaeologists have estimated the population of Tikal between 10,000 and 100,000; the rain forest makes it difficult to determine the real physical extent of the city. The site was 'discovered' by A.P. Maudsley in the 1880s. Archaeologists associated with Tikal include researchers from the University of Pennsylvania led by William Coe, Edwin Shook and Dennis Puleston, and most recently by the Guatemala government's Proyecto Nacional Tikal, led by Rudy Larios and Miguel Orrego.

Tikal's romantic lost location rising about the rain forest attracted American cinema director George Lucas, who used it as the 'rebel base on Tattoine' in the first Star Wars movie.


This glossary entry is part of the Guide to the Maya Civilization and the Dictionary of Archaeology.

Becker, M. J. 1973 Archaeological evidence for occupational specialization among Classic Maya at Tikal, Guatemala. American Antiquity 38:396-406.

Moholy-Nagy, Hattula 1995 Shells and society at Tikal, Guatemala. Expedition 37(2):3-12.

Moholy-Nagy, Hattula and Fred W. Nelson 1990 New data on sources of obsidian artifacts from Tikal,Guatemala. Ancient Mesoamerica 171-80.

Scarborough, Vernon L. 1994 Maya water management: Ancient water management in the southern Maya lowlands. Research and Exploration 10(2):184-199.

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.