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The Mirador Basin is a geographically defined elevated basin found in the remote rain forest of the northern department of Peténmarker, Guatemalamarker. The basin is dominated by low lying swamps called bajos. The basin is surrounded by rugged karstic limestone hills on the east, south, and to a lesser degree, the western side, forming a triangular geographical trough covering more than 2169 square kilometers. The region belongs to the Maya Biosphere Reserve that represents the last large area of intact tropical forest left in Mesoamerica. Archaeological and environmental studies conducted by the Mirador Basin Project,[409843] Directed by Dr. Richard Hansen, previously known as the Regional Archaeological Investigation of the North Petén, Guatemala (RAINPEG) Project, have identified data relevant to the origins and early development of the Maya in this area that is exceptional. The executing organization for the research is the Foundation for Anthropological Research and Environmental Studies (FARES), and the Institute for Mesoamerican Research at Idaho State University, where Hansen is the Chief Senior Scientist.

The research and development of the Mirador Basin is in close cooperation and collaboration with the Guatemalan Institute of Anthropology and History (IDAEH), the Guatemalan Ministry of Culture and Sports (Ministerio de Cultura y Deportes), the Guatemalan Institute of Tourism (INGUAT), the National Council of Protected Areas (CONAP), and the Presidency of the Republic of Guatemalamarker. In addition, the project is working closely with community organizations in the department of Petén. The IDB, along with The National Geographic Societymarker, the Foundation for Maya Cultural and Natural Heritage- Fundación del Patrimonio Cultural y Natural Maya (PACUNAM), the Global Heritage Fund, and the Friends of the Natural and Cultural Heritage of Guatemala (APANAC), the Carlos Novella Foundation, among other private sponsors, have given economic support to the project.

During the past two decades, the region has been the object of scientific investigations at the large Middle and Late Preclassic sites of El Miradormarker, Nakbemarker, Tintal, Wakna, the recently discovered sites of Xulnal and El Pesquero, and numerous smaller settlements, dating mostly to the Classic period, such as La Florida, Maaxte, Zacatal, Chan Kan, Tsab Kan, Pedernal, Isla, La Muerta, and La Muralla. Dozens of additional sites are dispersed within the Basin, including several extremely large ones such as Naachtun in the northeast corner which is currently under investigation by a team from the University of Calgarymarker in Canadamarker (Director: Kathryn Reese-Taylor). The primary settlement of the major sites in the basin dates to the Middle Preclassic (ca. 1000 BC-350 BC) and Late Preclassic periods (ca. 350 BC-AD 150), with relatively little overburden from the large scale constructions and extensive settlements that characterized the Classic periods (AD 250-900) of Lowland Maya civilization.

Threats to the Mirador Basin

Looting is a major threat to the many Mayan archaeological sites that reside in the Mirador Basin. Many are known, while still others remain unknown to science. According to Richard Hansen, "by the time scholars get there, looters may already have plundered them."

Forest fires that are the result of slash and burn agricultural practices create serious threat to the Mirador Basin's rich biodiversity. Illegal logging is yet another threat to the Basin's unique biodiversity.


  1. Hansen 1997: 48


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