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El Mirador

Peten, Guatemala

El Mirador is a large pre-Columbian Mayan settlement, located in the north of the modern department of El Petén, Guatemala.

El Mirador flourished from about the 6th century BCE, reaching its height from the 3rd century BCE to the 1st century CE, with a peak population of perhaps between 100,000 and 250,000 people, judging by the size and extent of the labor pool required to build the massive constructions.[citation needed] It then experienced a hiatus of construction and perhaps abandonment for generations,[citation needed] followed by re-occupation and further construction in the Late Classic era, and a final abandonment about the end of the 9th century. The civic center of the site covers some 10 square miles (26 km2) with several thousand structures, including monumental architecture from 10 to 30 meters high.

There are a number of "triadic" structures (around 35 structures), consisting of large artificial platforms topped with a set of 3 summit pyramids. The most notable such structures are three huge complexes; one is nicknamed "El Tigre", with height 55 metres (180 ft); the other is called "La Danta" (or Danta) temple. The La Danta temple measures approximately 70 metres (230 ft) tall from the forest floor, and considering its total volume (2,800,000 cubic meters) is one of the largest pyramids in the world. When the large man-made platform that the temple is built upon (some 18,000 square meters) is included in calculations, La Danta is considered by some archeologists to be one of the most massive ancient structures in the world. Also the "Los Monos" complex is very large (48 meters high) although not as well known. Most of the structures were originally faced with cut stone which was then decorated with large stucco masks depicting the deities of Maya mythology. According to Carlos Morales-Aguilar, a Guatemalan archaeologist, the city appears to have been planned from its foundation, as extraordinary alignments have been found between the architectural groups and main temples, which were possibly related to solar alignments. The study reflects an importance of urban planning and sacred spaces since the first settlers.

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