Twenty-three kilometres north of Tikal, the adobe and clapboard houses that comprise the friendly village of UAXACTÚN are spread out on both sides of an airstrip, as are the ruins of the same name. With a couple of places to stay, a few comedores and daily bus connections from Flores, the village is an ideal jumping-off point for the remote northern ruins of El Zotz, Naachtún and Río Azul.

Substantially smaller than Tikal, the site (known as Sia’an K’aan in Maya times) rose to prominence in the Late Preclassic era when it grew to become a major player. Uaxactún developed rivalry with Tikal, which peaked in January 16, 378 AD, when Tikal’s warriors conquered Uaxactún armed with the latest high-tech weaponry of the day – spear-throwing slings from Mexico. Uaxactún never recovered from this epochal defeat, and for the remainder of the Classic period was reduced to little more than a provincial backwater.

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