In the heart of the jungle, surrounded by lush vegetation, lies one of the major sites of Mayan civilization, inhabited from the 6th century B.C. to the 10th century A.D. The ceremonial centre contains superb temples and palaces, and public squares accessed by means of ramps. Remains of dwellings are scattered throughout the surrounding countryside.
Together with Sierra de las Minas Biosphere Reserve, Maya is the most important reserve in the country, because of its archaeological and bio/ecological interest. Rivers, lakes, swamps and flooding savannas are important for biodiversity and for migratory birds. The reserve contains the largest area of tropical rainforest in
Guatemala and Central America, with a wide range of unspoilt natural habitats. A large area of the reserve still comprises dense broadleaved forests with more than 300 species of commercially useful trees, such as cedar, mahogany, ramon (bread-nut tree), Araceae
(osier for furniture), chicle, pepper and others.
The soils of El Petén-Caribbean form a sedimentary basin with deposits from the Mesozoic and the Tertiary periods. They contain limestone and dolomites showing Cretaceous characteristics of karst formations with a broken relief. Soils are clayey and slightly permeable, with internal drainage, and easily compactable. Two types are found in the reserve: the
shelf to the north, formed by small hills, and the Lacandon mountain chain in the centre, consisting of rounded hills of calcareous origin, mountain chains, lagoons and alluvial plains. In the Lacandon area, soils are poor and there are abrupt cliffs. In the Yucatan , Uaxactun and Dos Lagunas areas, the topography is undulating and soils are well drained. Laguna del Tigre and Laguna de Yaxha are the main lagoons found in the wetland area, where there are a large number of 'aguadas' or superficial swamps. The rivers in the reserve are part of the drainage basin of the Tikal Usumacinta River in the Gulf of Mexico. This is one of the most extensive wetland systems in Central America.
Fifty-four species of mammal occur, including mantled howler monkey, spider monkey, giant anteater, lesser anteater, dwarf anteater, three-toed sloth, nine-banded armadillo, squirrel, pocket gopher, raccoon, brown coati, kinkajou, tayra, paca, long-tailed weasel, hooded skunk, otter, puma, margay, ocelot, jaguarundi, jaguar, Baird's tapir which is limited by water availability, collared and white-lipped peccaries, white-tailed deer and red brocket deer. The avifauna comprises 333 species, representing 63 of the 74 families in
, and includes ocellated turkey, red macaw, jaribu stork and many others, including crested eagle. Guatemala
Reptiles and amphibians include Morelet's crocodile, the Central American river turtle, nine families of amphibian and six genera of turtles, as well as 38 species of non-poisonous and poisonous snakes including coral snake, four species of Bothrops and two subspecies of rattlesnake Crotalus. A rich invertebrate fauna, especially arthropods, also occurs.
In the heart of this jungle, surrounded by lush vegetation, lies one of the major sites of the Mayan civilization. The ceremonial centre contains superb temples and palaces, and public squares accessed by means of ramps. Remains of dwellings are scattered throughout the surrounding countryside. The ruined city reflects the cultural evolution of Mayan society from hunter- gathering to farming, with an elaborate religious, artistic and scientific culture which finally collapsed in the late 9th century. At its height, AD 700-800, the city supported a population of 90,000 Mayan Indians. There are over 3,000 separate buildings dating from 600 BC to AD 900, including temples, residences, religious monuments decorated with hieroglyphic inscriptions and tombs. Excavations have yielded remains of cotton, tobacco, beans, pumpkins, peppers and many fruits of pre-Columbian origin. Large areas are still to be excavated.
Declared a national park on 26 May 1955, having originally been established as a national monument in 1931.
(accepted as a World Heritage site in 1979) and Laguna del Tigre (a Ramsar site) are located within the biosphere reserve. Declared a biosphere reserve on 30 January 1990 by congressional Decree No. 5-90, based on Article 12 of Congressional Decree No. 4-89 of the Protected Areas Law (Lehnhoff Temme, 1990). Tikal National Park