The Waka' Archaeological Project, which began research at the site (located approximately 60 km west of the famous Maya site of Tikal) in 2002, is part of an alliance of government and non-government agencies trying to halt a cycle of destruction in Guatemala's largest national park, Laguna del Tigre.
The ancient Maya center, known from ancient Maya inscriptions as Waka', and known today as El Per, was once an important economic and political center of the Maya world and formed one corner of a triangle of major sites that also included Calakmul (Mexico) to the north, and Tikal to the west. The site, composed of 672 monumental structures and untold numbers of small house structures, sits atop an escarpment six kilometers north of the San Pedro Mrtir River. Oil prospectors discovered the site in the 1960's.
Harvard researcher Ian Graham recorded the site's monuments in the early 1970's but did not carry out any excavations. The SMU Project is the first research project to undertake scientific excavations at Waka'.
The Laguna del Tigre National Park is Central America's largest nature preserve. Several endangered species have taken refuge in the park, including the Scarlet Macaw, for which the park is one of the last remaining habitat zones. Cattle ranching and other forms of invasion are encroaching on the park, however, and these illegal activities that frequently involve slash and burn agriculture and clearing for pastureland, threaten the park's future. Last year, 100,000 acres of the park burned, threatening both the wild
Contact: Meredith Dickenson
Southern Methodist University