Innovative Cities: Mayan-Style

Tikal National Park

I have cities on my mind because of the recent Innovative Cities Conference in Lowell. This morning, I turned on the TV and while looking for something to watch I came across the Sunrise Earth series on Discovery HD Theater, an amazing set of documentaries that capture the sunrise moment at different places in the world. Today’s feature was Tikal National Park in Guatemala, specifically the view from the area around the Lost World Pyramind of the Mayans. According to the captions (the documentaries employ natural sounds only, no narrative), the area was once a 65 square kilometer city dating from 500 B.C. The pyramid was built as an observatory used to chart solstices in order to help with planting schedules. This Guatemalan city lasted until 800 A.D. The scenes were stunning, from white-fronted green parakeets with red, blue, and yellow heads to the stone remnants of a place once central to an ancient people who looked at the sky, drank water, ate corn, and made lives for themselves in the middle of what became the Americas. At its peak, Tikal’s population reached about 100,000, just about the size of Lowell’s population today.

The reddened misty, cloud-layered sky shielding a fat gold sun changed in an hour of filming from peach and purple washes to white-and-blue overhead. Close-ups of toucans with huge yellow beaks and large howler monkeys feeding in the jungle canopy were interspersed with views of the tall, blunt pyramid and panoramas of the dense forest.

It’s also interesting to note that this area is a national park. To order a copy of the DVD, visit the Discovery Channel site here.