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Cross Section Diagram of Tikal North Acropolis

George Stuart called the North Acropolis "the most complicated layer cake of ancient architecture ever excavated in this hemisphere".

Tikal Structure 5D-33 before it was dismanteled


North Acropolis: Structure 5D-22

"The largest building of the North Acropolis, Str.5D-33-1st, was built during the early years of the Late Classic era, but had been so badly preserved that it was disassembled by excavation to reveal the earlier structures buried beneath. The first of these, Str. 5D-33-3rd, was built over the tomb (Burial 48) of Tikal's greatest Early Classic ruler, Stormy Sky, probably as his mortuary shrine. Not long after, this building was replaced by another (Str.5D-33-2nd), possibly to commemorate an important anniversary of Stormy Sky's death. Finally, the great ruler of Late Classic Tikal, Ah Cacau (also know as Hasaw Chan K'awil and Ruler A), seems to have marked an anniversary of his illustrious ancestor's death by dedicating 5D-33-1st. But before this latest building was constructed, Stormy Sky's magnificent monument, Stela 31, which had probably stood in front of his mortuary temple, was carried up the stairway and reset within the rear room of 5D-33-2nd, almost directly over his tomb (which had been concealed long before, soon after his death). There, after rituals that left smashed incensarios strewn about the room and the broken base of the monument burned, the stela was carefully encased in rubble fill, and the partially dismantled building was buried beneath the new shrine. Here Stela 31 was found during the excavations of the Tikal Project, just as the Maya had left it."

Robert J. Sharer, The Ancient Maya, p. 157-9

Masonry & plaster mask decorating the pyramid of Structure 5D-33-3rd

" A great many considerations entered ito the decision to dismantle what was necessary of 33-1st to reveal the anciently mutilated but still impressively preserved earlier temples. Today, as one stands in the Great Plaza, one sees the lowest terraced parts of 33-1st wrapped about and over the rooms and supporting platform of 33-2nd. Fantastic masks decorate the facade of the temple proper, while others, monstrous heads with earplugs through which serpents twine, are seen on the suporting platform to the sides of an acess stairway. Still another platform underlies this one. This earliest platform is 33-3rd and once carried its own building, which was dismantled to make way for the platform of 33-2nd. The platform of 33-03rd is faced by two masks over ten feet high depicting long-nosed gods, one to the east and one to the west. Both are visible today by way of a system of tunnels and are among the most awesome sights of Tikal. Each owes its good preservation to the fact that the Maya covered them over with new masks at the time of building 33-2nd. But at the time of building 33-1st, these mask were brutally hacked and almost completely stripped of their red and white painted decorative plaster."

William R. Coe, Tikal: a Handbook of the Ancient Maya Ruins, pp. 46

Stormy Sky's burial chamber beneath Structure 5D-33-3

Robert J. Sharer, in The Ancient Maya, identifies this as the tomb of Stormy Sky, Tikal's greatest Early Classic ruler.
Michael D. Coe, in The Maya, writes, "There were three interments here, two of them adolescent victims sacrificed to accompany the principal personage, a headless and handless corpse presumably recovered by his followers from the scene of a military disaster. The white, stuccoed walls had been covered with glyphs applied in black paint by a sure hand, including the Long Count date (19 March AD 457 in the Gregorian calendar), in all likelihood the day of the man's death or of his funeral. A metate and mano, and vessels once filled with food (one had contained some pigeon-sized birds), show that the soul was to be nourished in the afterlife. Marine shells and sting-ray spines, imported from distant shores, were placed with the dead. Besides pottery vessels, the tomb contained a travertine pedestal bowl encircled by a row of incised glyphs, the lines of which were filled with red cinnabar."

North Acropolis: Structure 5D-22

"Structure 5D-22, Tikal, one of the funerary temples of the North Acropolis; the terraces of this Early Classic platform are decorated with plaster masks (above and below the man at work in the center) flanking the axial stairway (at far right) and overlapping upper zones, or " apron" molding, on the terraces."

Robert J. Sharer, The Ancient Maya, p. 154

Burial 85: Great Jaguar Paw, 9th ruler of Tikal

" Burial all the others enclosed by platform substructures and covered by a primitive corbel vault, contained a single skeleton. Surprisingly, this individual lacked head and thigh bones, but from the richness of the goods placed with him it may be guessed that he must have perished in battle and been despoiled by his enemies, his mutilated body being later recovered by his subjects. The remains were carefully wrapped-up in textiles, and the bundle placed in an upright position. A small, greenstone mask with shell-inlaid eyes and teeth seems to have been sewn to the bundle to represent the head. A sting-ray spine, the symbol of self-sacrifice among the Maya, and a spondylus shell were added to the gruesome contents. Packed around the burial chamber were no less than twenty-six vessels of the late Chicanel period, one of which contained pine-wood charcoal dated by the radiocarbon process to A.D.16 +/- 131

Although there are minor differences from region to region, a single widespread culture, Chicanel, dominated the Central and Northern Areas at this time. Most pottery is legless, and confined to a simple black or red monochrome, with thick glossy slips that feel waxy to the touch. It is strange that in most known Chicanel sites, figurines are not found, from which it may be supposed that there was a change in popular cults.

Michael D. Coe. The Maya, p. 60, 63

Tikal North Acropolis Structure 5D-22 Tikal North Acropolis Burial 85 Tikal North Acropolis Structure 5D-33 Tikal North Acropolis Structure 5D-33-2nd and 1st Trenching Tikal North Acropolis Structure 5D-33-3rd Tikal North Acropolis Stela 31 Tikal North Acropolis Stormy Sky's Burial Chamber