Temple damaged in 'apocalypse' frenzy

More than 7,000 people visited Tikal to see native Mayan priests hold a colourful ceremony. Photo / AFP
More than 7,000 people visited Tikal to see native Mayan priests hold a colourful ceremony. Photo / AFP

Tourists flocking to Guatemala for "end of the world" parties have damaged an ancient stone temple at Tikal, the largest archeological site and urban center of the Mayan civilization.

"Sadly, many tourists climbed Temple II and caused damage," said Osvaldo Gomez, a technical adviser at the site, which is located some 550 kilometres north of Guatemala City.

"We are fine with the celebration, but (the tourists) should be more aware because this is a (UNESCO) World Heritage Site," he told local media.

Gomez did not specify what was done, although he did say it was forbidden to climb the stairs at the site and indicated that the damage was irreparable.

Temple II, which is about 38 metres high and faces the central Tikal plaza, is one of the site's best known structures.

Friday marked the end of an era that lasted 5,200 years, according to the Mayan "Long Count" calendar. Some believed the date also marked the end of the world as foretold by Mayan hieroglyphs.

More than 7,000 people visited Tikal on Friday to see native Mayan priests hold a colourful ceremony and light fires as the sun emerged to mark the new era.

Critics complained that the event was really for tourists and had little to do with the Mayans. About 42 per cent of Guatemala's 14.3 million residents are native Mayans, and most live in poverty and endure discrimination.

The ancient Mayans reached their peak of power in Central America between the years 250 and 900 AD.

UNESCO declared Tikal a World Heritage Site in 1979.

- AFP

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