So, today entailed an early start, 04.00 to go to Tikal for sunrise. A Mayan City, whose roots lie far back in time to 700bc when the Mayans settled here. Its power waxed and wained until around 900ad when it was eventually abandoned. At its peak it sprawled over 30sq km and was home to a suspected 100,000 people. 90% of the city still lies under the reclaiming jungle but we were shown around the major monuments. Our guide was good and explained what is known of their culture and the horrific sacrifices that were made to the gods. Apparently to be sacrificed was an honour and people willingly gave themselves or their children to rituals. Intoxicants were used so as to allow individuals to go through the ceremonies without distress and they would have lain pliant as their chests were cut open and hearts removed. Other rituals involved ball games where the winners were sacrificed in similar ways. Such sacrifices were undertaken at significant astronomical times, proving the king's powers and guaranteeing the sacrificed entrance to the after life. Much of their culture revolved around the proving of power, from the monuments themselves, the pain-free, willing sacrifices, which included royalty on the most auspicious of cosmological events, to the distortion of royal heads by lashing of boards to them at young ages to stretch them into a cone, it was all about showing control.
The place, beautiful as it is, holds a strange air. Haunted at the least by the memories of ritual murder. Climbing the pyramids and looking down, one cannot help but imagine the sights that have been witnessed from these lithic statements of grandeur, and ponder at if we could slip into such a superstitious mental collective consciousness again?