Tikal Mayan Ruins – Guatemala

Tikal is the largest excavated site in the Americas. 

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The Tikal site is spread over 16 sq kms however, the National Park is set in 200 sq miles of jungle. The main square is the most photographed part of Tikal, with Temples I & II unique in their design.

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Tikal was the capital of a conquest state that became one of the most powerful kingdoms of the ancient Maya. The site dates back as far as the 1000 BC & by 400 BC it was thriving. By 700 AD it was in decline, due to drought. At this time the Mayan people started to sacrifice humans, rather than animals, to the God of Rain, in the desperate attempt to save their city.
The scenes of Apocalypto of heads being thrown down the main staircase, is factually incorrect as humans were disemboweled on the alters at the base. See alters below:

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Most of Tikal Park structures remain covered with jungle growth, recognized only as large mounds of rocks over grown by trees. The partially restored area consists of nine groups of courts and plazas. There are 5 large temples.

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One of the most impressive, Temple IV is the tallest structure at 1542 ft & dated to 741AD. From the top you get a view of the jungle canopy with three of the temples poking through the trees.
This view was apparently used in Star Wars Episode IV, to shoot the rebel base on the Moon Yavin 4 where the Millenium Falcon lands in the jungle world. See: Star Wars clip

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