Lecture 5. Tikal: Palaces and Funerary Monuments for Maya Kings of Time (250 BC – AD 800)

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Carolyn Tate

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Shaping Place in Mesoamerica

The Maya created one of the world’s great civilizations. Deep in the rainforest, they founded over one hundred kingdoms, where writing, the arts, mathematics, astronomy, music, and of course, architecture flourished. They learned to take advantage of a challenging environment and built their cities without beasts of burden, metal tools, or the wheel. Tikal was perhaps the most enduring of Maya kingdoms. It was founded in the Pre-Classic era, around 600 BC, and emerged around AD 300 as a dominant power among neighboring chiefdoms. After several attacks that plunged Tikal into a dark era, an important king, Jasaw Chan K’awiil, achieved a revival of Maya tradition during the Late Classic, around 700. His descendants continued to dominate the political affairs of the region until the Lowland Maya civilization collapsed around 900. Perhaps because it was so often attacked, sometimes with severe disruptions to the kingdom, Tikal was in many ways a conservative place. After each setback, rulers considered it important to continue, or to renew, the traditional forms of architecture and the rituals of kingship. For this reason, the study of Tikal introduces many of the fundamental material forms of Maya civilization. These include intensive water management, the E-Group, the stela – altar tradition, the necropolis of kings, the royal palace, and the funerary pyramid with high roofcomb. Less common are carved lintels, which are a special feature at Tikal, and the Twin Pyramid Group, which may be a unique Late Classic version of the E- Group. Units: 1) Late Pre-Classic mega-kingdom of El Mirador 2) Late Pre-Classic Tikal: North Acropolis and Burial 85. 3) Stela 29, the earliest Maya Long Count 4) Early Classic complex of Mundo Perdido with its E-Group 5) Teotihuacan overthrows Tikal dynasty in 378 6) Ruler Sihyaj Chan K’awiil, Stela 31, and his burial in North Acropolis tomb 7) Calakmul and allies attack Tikal, ushering in a Dark Age of 130 years 8) Late Classic revival with Jasaw Chan K’awiil: renovation of North Acropolis, introduction of Twin Pyramid Groups, Funerary monuments, “ancestral triangulation” or right-triangle alignments

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