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Tikal Becomes the Largest City-State in Mesoamerica with 500,000 Inhabitants

Tikal was in a state of decline by the middle of the sixth century AD when it was defeated by the southern kingdom of Caracol with the help of the northern kingdom of Calakmul. Tikal’s defeat was so devastating that there was a drop in the construction projects sponsored by its rulers. The other magnificent monuments of the Early Classic Period were either mutilated or destroyed. Its territory shrank, and at this point, Caracol was still a powerful force in the region; although the control had already shifted to the Maya lowland city of Calakmul in the modern Campeche region of Mexico. However, Tikal’s struggles were not sufficient enough to prevent the city from later becoming the largest in Mesoamerica. Which was towards the end of the 6th century, according to the Bible Timeline with World History.

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“The history of Classic Maya civilization was dominated by the rivalry between the opposed alliance networks of Calakmul and Tikal”

The tables turned when King J’asaw Chan K’awiil of Tikal and his troops defeated the city of Calakmul in the Late Post-Classic period. This victory was commemorated with the construction of several buildings with carvings that showed the defeated king of Calakmul bound and later sacrificed. Yik’in Chan K’awiil, J’asaw’s son, continued this expansion. It was during his reign that Tikal was transformed into a city of magnificent temples and plazas.

It became one of the largest Maya city-states in Mesoamerica during this period with the population estimated between 40,000 and as much as 500,000. The people were spread out in Tikal’s territory of 2,500 sq km or 950 sq miles deep in the El Peten rainforest. This period was also Tikal’s most prosperous, as seen in the abundance of goods buried with their rulers. Tikal continued to dominate the Maya lowland region until it was abandoned at some point in 800 AD.

Picture By chensiyuan – chensiyuan, GFDL,
Cremin, Aedeen. The World Encyclopedia of Archaeology. Buffalo, NY: Firefly Books, 2007.
Sharer, Robert J., and Loa P. Traxler. The Ancient Maya. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2006.
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