Certainly the most imposing of Mayan sites, if not the most beautiful is the great Mayan ruin of Yax Mutal, better known today as Tikal, for only recently have we found out that it’s name during the cities heyday was in fact Yax Mutal. In the Mayan language spoken in what we now call Tikal, Yax means first and Mutal seems to mean possibly bird, but more likely a handful or “topknot” of hair.1
The origins and early archaeology of the site are poorly known. But it appears that Tikal emerged in the late pre-classic period, (400 B.C.E. – 250 C.E.)2
The city became important during this time period with building in the North Acropolis area going back to 350 B.C.E.3 During this period Tikal although growing was very much in the shadow of the massive site of El Mirador, located near what is now the Mexican / Guatemalan border. This site one of the most massive ever erected in the Pre-Columbian Americas, completely dwarfed any other Mayan site and was apparently to remain the largest Mayan site ever.4 Although the Maya at El Mirador erected stela they appeared to have painted rather than sculpted inscriptions on them, the result being that nothing can read from them after the paint was washed off by rain. So the history of El Mirador remains unknown.5
Tikal emerged during this period of domination by El Mirador. So that by 1 C.E., it was a very important center with a significant ceremonial center and a large population. It appears from graves found during this time period that Tikal was ruled by Kings although the names of the rulers has not come down to us.6
c. 90 C.E., a man named Yax Ehb Xook (First Step Shark) became King of Tikal he was regarded by later rulers of Tikal as a founder of the ruling dynasty. We know virtually nothing about him except that later Kings considered him the founder. Although a tomb in the northern acropolis called Burial 85 is very likely his burial.7
1. Montgomery, John, Tikal, Hippocrene Books Ltd., New York, 2001, p. 36, Martin, Simon & Grube, Nikolai, Chronicle of the Maya Kings and Queens, Second Edition, Thames and Hudson, London, 3008, p. 30.
2. Drew, David, The Lost Chronicles of The Maya Kings, Phoenix, London, 1999, p.6., Martin, p. 8.
3. Drew, pp. 132-135, 183-186.
4.Sharer, Robert J., & Traxler, Loa P., The Ancient Maya, Sixth Edition, Stanford University Press, Stanford CA, 2006, pp. 352-364, Drew, pp. 131-136.
5. Traxler, p. 352-264, Schele, Linda, & Freidel, David, A Forest of Kings, William Morrow & Co. Ltd., New York, 1990, p. 128.
6. Traxler, pp. 305-306.
7. Traxler, p. 310-311, Martin, p. 26-27, Schele, p. 136, Coe, Michael et al, Royal Maya Dynasties of the Classic Period, 2005, FASMI, Here
9. Traxler, pp. 252-264, Demarest, Arthur, Ancient Maya, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2004, pp. 103, 310, Martin, p. 8, Drew, pp. 145-146.
10. Martin, p. 27, Traxler, p. 312, coe, p. 23.
11. Traxler, p. 311, Martin, p. 26-27. Montgomery, p. 43, Coe, p. 23.
12. Montgomery, p. 43, Traxler, p. 311-312, Martin , p. 27, Coe, p. 23.
14. Martin, p. 27, Montgomery, pp. 43-44. Coe, p. 23, Traxler, p. 311-312, Schele, p. 221.
15. Coe. p. 23, Traxler, pp. 311-312, Montgomery, p. 44, Martin, p. 27.
16. Coe, p.23, Martin, p. 28, Montgomery, pp. 44-49, 52-53, Drew, pp. 188-189, Schele, pp. 130-164.
17, Martin, 29-30, Drew, pp. 197-202, Montgomery, pp. 68-74.