Tikal (or Tik’al, according to the more current orthography) is one of the largest archaeological sites and urban centers of the Pre-Columbian Maya civilization. It is located in the archaeological region of the Petén Basin in what is now modern-day northern Guatemala. Situated in the department of El Petén at 17°13′19″N 89°37′22″W the site is part of Guatemala’s Tikal National Park and in 1979 was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The closest large modern settlements are Flores and Santa Elena, approximately 64 kilometres (40 mi) by road to the southwest.
Tikal was one of the major cultural and population centers of the Maya civilization. Though monumental architecture at the site dates to the 4th century BC, Tikal reached its apogee during the Classic Period, ca. 200 to 900 AD, during which time the site dominated the Maya region politically, economically, and militarily while interacting with areas throughout Mesoamerica, such as central Mexican center of Teotihuacan. There is also evidence that Tikal was even conquered by Teotihuacan in the 4th century. Following the end of the Late Classic Period, no new major monuments were built at Tikal and there is evidence that elite palaces were burned. These events were coupled with a gradual population decline, culminating with the site’s abandonment by the end of the 10th century.