| Located in the Peten plain of Guatemala,
Tikal is a city which flourished in the seventh century A.D. and was abandoned
in the tenth century by the Mayan people who had constructed
it. It covers an area of twenty square miles and consists of over 2,000
buildings, many of which have not yet been excavated. At the heart of Tikal
is a Great Plaza surrounded by ceremonial and governmental buildings. To
the north of the Great Plaza is the Northern Acropolis, a collection of
symmetrically arranged temples which was in continuous use from the second
century B.C. Since they were repeatedly rebuilt, the temples of the Northern
Acropolis reveal layers of previous temples and burials when excavated.
One of the most important burials is that of Stormy Sky (Siyaj
Chan K'awiil II), burial 48 in Temple 33-2. Stormy Sky, whose magnificent
stela is the greatest sculptural treasure of Tikal, ruled
Tikal in the years 548-600. He was the son of Curl Nose (Yax
Nuun Ayiin I) and grandson of Jaguar Paw (Chak Tok Ich'aak), the ruler
of Tikal at the time of its most glorious military victory, the attack on
the neighboring city of Uaxactun which was won by using advanced spear throwing
technology learned from Teotihuacan.
Tikal was eclipsed in the sixth and seventh centuries by the city of Calakmul, but by the eighth century it threw off the yoke of domination and began its most ambitious period of urban reconstruction. Under the leadership of Ah Cacau (Hasaw Chan K'awil), a large new temple was added to the Northern Acropolis obliterating the view to the older temples there. Stormy Sky's stela, desecrated by Tikal's earlier conquerors, was reburied in a ceremony commemorating the victory over Uaxactun. Upon his death, Ah Cacau's orders were carried out for the construction of an impressive nine-storied temple on the Great Plaza, Temple I. His wife was buried in a matching temple facing Temple I and framing the Great Plaza. There following a building campaign of gigantic temples, Temples III, IV, and V, the largest of which (Temple IV) remained the highest building in the Western Hemisphere until the construction of the Singer Building, a skyscraper in New York, in 1907.