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KAMINALJUYU ARCHAEOLOGICAL PARK IN GUATEMALA CITY
Written by Lorena Bleker, with contribution of Dr. Mike Reed
Revised by Dr. Hector Escobedo
The archaeological site Kaminaljuyú, which means “Cerro de los Muertos” or “Hill of the Dead”, was the most important pre-Hispanic Maya city of the Guatemalan Central Highlands and it is located at the heart of Guatemala City. Kaminaljuyu hosted more than 200 mounds and 13 ball game courts, scattered over an area of 5 square km around the extinct Miraflores Lagoon, which was located where the Tikal Futura Hotel lies today in zone 11.
Kaminaljuyu was built on a plain and fertile valley with abundant rivers surrounded by mountains and volcanoes. A walk through the site reveals extensive plazas with large mounds, representing the remains of platforms, pyramids and ball game courts. The ball game was a ritual sport of religious significance played by the city’s elite ruler class.
Archaeological excavations at the site have revealed an impressive collection of cultural materials including ceramics vessels decorated with sea shells, carved basalt and sandstone stelae and zoomorphic sculptures of the Late Preclassic Period (400 BC-200 AD), recording important events that took place in the political, social and economic life of Kaminaljuyu.
Zoomorphic monuments and sculptures, carved with iconographic elements embedded with strong spiritual meaning, represent important achievements in art and esthetic. During the Early Classic Period (200-600 AD), Kaminaljuyu had strong commercial and political ties with the powerful metropolis of Teotihuacan in Central Mexico, according to archaeological evidence found at the site. Unfortunately, during the last five decades about 90% of the ancient city of Kaminaljuyu was destroyed by the urban growth of modern Guatemala.
The Archaeological Park contains the surviving structures of the city’s central core which has been completely enclosed by modern constructions. There is also a small museum at the park. Collections of carved monuments and ceramics from Kaminaljuyu are on display at the National Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology located in Zone 13, as well as at Popol Vuh Museum in Zone 10. In addition, the small but impressive Miraflores Museum, located near the Tikal Futura Hotel, on Roosevelt Boulevard, just a few blocks from the Kaminaljuyu Archaeological Park, displays the skeletal remains of three individuals, jade ornaments, obsidian artifacts and pottery offering vessels found at the tomb of a Maya noble, recreated inside of a preserved ancient mound that can be reached through an underground tunnel. A transparent floor allows the visitor to peer at the the tomb underlying directly beneath their feet. Unfortunately, the Museo Miraflores is currently temporarily closed for renovations.
Photos courtesy of http://mcd.gob.gt
Location: Calzada San Juan 30 avenida zona 7, Guatemala, Ciudad.
Business hours: 8:00 – 16:00 (Mon-Sun)
Local visitors: Q. 5.00
Foreign visitors: Q. 50.00
Website: http://mcd.gob.gt/kaminal-juyu/ (available only in Spanish)