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 Aguateca (Awateka)

Aguateca Photo Gallery

Aguateca, known during the Classic as K'inich Witz or "Sun Faced Mountain" has a very distinctive history and was the scene of an invasion and destruction that occurred in the early 9th. century AD a time when all the major cities in Petén were abandoned, Aguateca is a medium-sized Maya centre located in the tropical lowlands of western Guatemala. We don’t know yet who attacked Aguateca and his last ruler Tan Te K’nich, what we do know is that this city, along with Dos Pilas, formed a kingdom since 700 AD; and that Aguateca was the last capital maybe because its location and fortified walls. Every one of the elite residences excavated so far has included a artistic workshop—a sign that Aguateca's sculptors, painters, ceramic artists, and scribes came overwhelmingly from the ranks of nobility. A sampling of clay figurines shows their range of inspiration. The site is divided into three districts based on topography, settlement, and its fortifications: epicenter, periphery, and wetlands (Inomata 1995). The epicenter is located to the west of the escarpment. It is an area protected by the chasm on the south and west, by the escarpment on the east, a large sinkhole on the north, and by wall segments (Inomata 1995; Van Tuerenhout et al. 1993; Van Tuerenhout 1996). This area has the most defenses at the site, and was burned once it was abandoned. All of the stelas, altars, and panels are situated in the Main Plaza, southwest of the Palace Group.

Dos Pilas, the defensive features at Aguateca were planned and constructed with ample time. The walls were built during the later occupational period of the site, towards the end of the Late Classic (Inomata 1995). None of the fortifications bisect any structures. One of the outer walls runs parallel to the western edge of the gorge. Two perpendicular walls protected the Palace Group and elite residential area to the south. Access to this area was heavily restricted coming from the causeway. Two parallel walls running east-west divide the causeway. One of these barriers makes contact with the edge of the escarpment. This may have been done to cut off access to the Palace Group completely in times of danger.

Aguateca was probably established as the twin capital of Dos Pilas around A.D. 650 by an intrusive dynasty originated from Tikal (Houston 1993). Structure L8-8 sits on the western side of the Main Plaza where numerous stone monuments are found. This building is the largest at Aguateca in terms of the horizontal dimensions. At the base its main portion measures 50 m in length and 35 m in width, and its front terrace and large front stairway add 12 m to its width. Its height of 6 mt. however, is unimpressive, giving the structure the shape of an acropolis with a broad upper surface. The building is made of limestone in accordance with lowland Maya custom. Aguateca is located on the thick formations of limestone, and irregular or horizontally split limestone blocks are available throughout the site. Soft limestone for dressed stones, however, appears to have been obtained at quarries located roughly 150 m to the west of Structure L8-8. The appearance of Structure L8-8 before excavation, with loose, irregular rocks, struck the researches as unusual. At the rear was a large pile of rough rocks sloping outward, betraying the Maya convention of rectangular or square layouts, and a large depression marked its centre. Graham (1967) and Houston (1993), who visited Aguateca in the 1960s and the 1980s respectively, recorded its strange shape. The structure also perplexed Inomata (1995) when he surveyed the site in the early 1990s. The excavation and restoration of Structure L8-8 by the Aguateca Restoration Project Second Phase in 2002 and 2003 demonstrated that the building was abandoned during the process of construction. 

  It is probable that Aguatecan architects designed this structure (left) symmetrically like many other Maya temples. If so, builders were in the process of adding construction bins in the front section, and the southern portion had advanced more than the northern counterpart. Between some construction bins, the Maya left narrow passages (roughly 0.8 m wide) with coarse stairways. These facilitated access to upper sections during construction and were meant to be filled later. Once the cores were completed, builders covered them with backing masonry that consisted of mortar mixed with rubble, covered in turn with cut stones. It is suggestive to compare Structure L8-8 with dismantled buildings at Aguateca, including Structure M8-41 along the Causeway and the platform of Structure M7-32 in the Palace Group, and those at the nearby site of Dos Pilas, where some temples and palaces were robbed of cut stones for the construction of defensive walls (Demarest et al.1997). At these buildings, the residents of Aguateca and Dos Pilas usually removed stones that could be easily dislodged and often left intact large blocks too heavy to lift and stones wedged in corners. The central depression of Structure L8-8 (12 m wide and 3.5 m deep), appears to be part of the original design of the building, possibly for housing a royal tomb. An associated sculpture, Altar M, appears to represent the calendar date of 9 Ajaw, which may correspond to in the Maya Long Count (AD 810), the last date recorded here.

The defensive walls were constructed toward the end of occupation at Aguateca (Inomata 1997). In addition, their excavations in the elite residential area in the site core uncovered burned buildings containing numerous complete and reconstructed objects. The royal residential complex, however, was swept clean, and dense deposits of broken artifacts were then dumped in some areas. Only one sealed room in a royal residence contained numerous complete and reconstructible objects (Inomata et al. 2003; Inomata & Stiver 1998; Inomata et al. 2002).

Defensive wall Figurines in a "hiding" Ceremonial vase

 These results suggest the following sequence of events at the end of Aguateca. The last ruler of Aguateca, Tan Te’ K’inich, may have ordered the construction of Structure L8-8 as his final resting place. Inter-group conflict in the region, however, escalated toward the end of the Classic period, and the residents of Aguateca tried to defend the centre by building a series of defensive walls hastily. The construction of the funerary temple may have ceased at this time. As the situation became worse, Tan Te’ K’inich and his family probably evacuated the centre, emptying most rooms of the royal palace and leaving some of the royal possessions, mainly Ceramic, Jade and Obsidian in a sealed storage room. Many other elites remained at Aguateca to the bitter end. The enemy eventually invaded Aguateca and burned its central part. The remaining elite residents fled or were taken away, leaving most of their belongings behind. The enemy also burned the royal palace and ritually deposited broken objects. They forced the non-elite residents to leave the city, and Aguateca was completely deserted (Inomata 2003). The abundance of objects associated with traditional courtly activities in the burned elite residences (Inomata, et al. 2001) suggests that the whole sequence of events took place in a relatively short period of time. Aguateca may have been attacked and abandoned around AD 810, a date that Altar M was meant to commemorate.

Jade Pectoral, displayed
National Museum

Aguateca is located in South Western Petén, Guatemala, at the southernmost part of Petexbatún lagoon and is some 90 mts. (300 ft) above the shoreline, it gave the city a wide view of the area and a natural barrier, and on top of that, a 3 meters (10 ft) high wall was made. The main plaza is separated by a natural creek, some 3 mts. wide and 5 mts. deep, The city was abandoned in a hurry, giving the archeologist the opportunity to see a lot of daily use pottery an other objects in pristine condition; because nobody occupied this city after its destruction by fire.  There are very impressive stelas and the jungle with birds,,howling and spider monkeys, and the lagoon in the other, gives this site a very unique touch and make it worthwhile visiting, the site is under reconstruction and a little museum is now open where you can see a lot of  objects found there, there are  guides and park rangers so it is very safe to go, you will need between 2 or 3 hours at the most to enjoy the site,  from there you can go hiking to Dos Pilas it’s a 3 hour hike into the jungle that all by itself is very amusing, be prepared with mosquitoes repellent, or you can hire a guide that will use a pot to burn cohune palm nuts as repellent.

View from Site

 You can go there from Flores by bus (1 1-2 hour) or Taxi in 40 min.(More expensive) the road is paved all the way to Sayaxché  at La Pasión river, were you can rent a boat for about US $ 50 for up to 4 passengers that will take 40 minutes to go to Aguateca, via Petexbatún river and lagoon were you can enjoy bird watching and also caimans, but this will be more enjoyable in a slower (2 hours) and cheaper boat that takes up to 8 people for about US $ 40 (You pay the same for one or more passengers). If you choose not to hike to Dos Pilas, Tamarindito and Arroyo de Piedra, you may want to ask to the lanchero to stop at Punta Chimino, (see other sites: Southwest Petén) a beautiful site on your return, or You can go from Sayaxché via La Pasión River to the opposite way in about 35 minutes to Ceibal another great Mayan city for almost the same fare that cost you to go to Aguateca, or you can cross the river and go there by land, (it is cheaper this way), thus making your day worthwhile, visiting 3 great cities in one day.






































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Last updated 28/01/2011 17:07:37 -0500
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