Sunday, September 20, 2009


The previous post was about Museo Miraflores in which I make reference to the city of Kaminaljuyu. This city even though it was one of the most important pre-Columbian mayan cities in the Guatemalan Highland it is one the least visited, least talked about, least restored, worst preserved and probably most looted. Below the story:

"The valley where today the city of Guatemala is settled was know in the time of the colony as the valley of 'Ermita', 'de la Virgen', 'de las Vacas' and 'de La Culebra'. The first two names refer to a small chapel on a hill called Cerrito del Carmen and the image venerated there. The name 'Las Vacas' takes its name from the valley where cows used to graze upon, and 'de la Culebra' comes from the pre-Columbian mound on the south end of the city (Zone 10, 14 and 13) that came from Santa Catarina Pinula and extended to El Trebol (where the aqueduct was built in the colonial times and the ruins are still seen).

This mound was build by the inhabitants of the biggest an most important pre-Columbian city of the Guatemalan Highlands, called Kaminaljuyu. The city occupied what is now Zone 7 and 11 of the modern Guatemala city. In the times of the 'Colonia' the 'Camino Real' that came from Santiago de Guatemala (La Antigua) went through the abandoned city of Kaminaljuyu, to make its way to the Cerrito del Carmen towards Lake Izabal. The chronicler Francisco Antonio de Fuentes y Guzmán reported in the XVII century the existence of mounds and idols laying on the side of the road, but nobody payed much attention to it.

During the beginning of the 20th Century the site underwent some excavations that evidenced the extension and relevance of the site but there was no interest in the conservations; on the contrary, urban development projects and commercial buildings devastated de area and most of the artifacts and structures. Few mounds randomly survived standing among houses and roads, such is the case of the Kaminaljuyu park in Zone 7 and the Paseo Miraflores Zone 11.

The highlands of Guatemala, besides offering the beautiful scenery, was the most developed region for the old maya people. Kaminaljuyu was the most successful and prosperous city of the central valley, being built with abundant water and fertile land. The resources were well used since the beginning of its establishment around the year 1200BC, by the people who spoke Chol, one the the mayan languages. During the 2000 years of occupancy it was a center of commercial and urbanist relevance for all the highland and the region on the Pacific. It was visited by caravans of merchants who brought precious articles as well as staples from faraway lands.

The people that spoke K'iche conquered Kaminaljuyu at the end of the first century of our era and the old 'choles' were displaced. Between the years 600-900 ac many building were built around plazas, the ball game was practiced and beautiful pottery was crafted. Commercial liasons were productive among the people of Peten, Alta Verapaz and the region on the Motagua river. The city was abandoned near the year 900ac and it is believed that the people founded the city of Chinautla.

The city suffered the same process of political and cultural degradation observed in other Maya sites which then lead to abandonment.

The development of Kaminaljuyu was favored by it strategic location on the the lake Miraflores on the central part of the city. The lake had a length 1.5 km and .5km width. It was the main source of water and provided food resources as fish, birds, snails and algae.

The first works of hydraulic engineer in all the Maya area were done in this city by means of wide canals that took water from the lake to the fields to irrigate the crops. The canals that were discovered next to the the Miraflores museum are 4 to 18 meters wide and are know as Canal Miraflores, Canal San Jorge and Canal Mirador.

Canal Miraflores is the oldest one and was built circa 600bc. It worked utilizing the multilevel topography having gravity move the water and the width of the canal control speed.

During the following centuries the technology got better, the San Jorge Canal, had hydraulic jumps to increase speed. Later the construction of the Mirador Canal included wooden doors to control the flow to the crop fields.

By the year 200 BC water became scarce and was insufficient for the use of the canal. It is believed it could have been a consequence of poor use of the resource.

The first houses were built around the lake Miraflores and were unsophisticated constructions made out of clay and wood. With the passage of time high pyramidal construction were built and decorated with multiple colors: green, yellow, red, gray, black other colors, red being the most predominant.

The bigger structures, including temples, were built circa the year 700bc. Religious and political building surrounded ample plazas were people congregated for social, religious and commercial purposes. Fourteen ball game courts have been reported.

The sculpted monuments date all the way to the year 700 bc, when the Stele 9 was carved. The stele 9 shows a character talking and singing with the eye to the sky. The majority of the steles and altars where carved in 'basalto' stone and have images of the leaders and the dates when they were carved.

En the Late pre classic period power was held by a supreme leader, he commissioned sculptures an reliefs that represented the glories and triumphs over other nations. He held enough authority to order majestic works and to lead an army that conquered lands and other mayan nations."

Taken from the Museo Miraflores


Nancy said...

Te declaro embajadora itinerante guatemalteca.


La Vivi said...

We used to go and play near the ruins but in those days nobody consider the importance of our history and legacy. I am glad that now there is a museum and mainly that somebody cares about our past.
Thank you for bringing this to all of the adoptive parents and to the rest of us.