Mirador Basin
The Mirador Basin is a geological depression
Depression (geology)
A depression in geology is a landform sunken or depressed below the surrounding area. Depressions may be formed by various mechanisms.Structural or tectonic related:...

 found in the remote rainforest
Rainforests are forests characterized by high rainfall, with definitions based on a minimum normal annual rainfall of 1750-2000 mm...

 of the northern department of Petén
Petén (department)
Petén is a department of the nation of Guatemala. It is geographically the northernmost department of Guatemala, as well as the largest in size — at it accounts for about one third of Guatemala's area. The capital is Flores...

, Guatemala
Guatemala is a country in Central America bordered by Mexico to the north and west, the Pacific Ocean to the southwest, Belize to the northeast, the Caribbean to the east, and Honduras and El Salvador to the southeast...

. Mirador Basin consists of two true basins, consisting of shallowly sloping terrain dominated by low-lying swamps called bajos; one draining into the San Pedro River
San Pedro River (Guatemala)
The Río San Pedro is a river of Guatemala and Mexico. Its sources are located in the Guatemalan department of El Petén. at . The river flows westwards until it reaches the Mexican border and crosses into the state of Tabasco at . From there it continues northwest and joins the Usumacinta River...

 and the other into the Candelaria River
Candelaria River
-References:*Atlas of Mexico, 1975 .*The Prentice Hall American World Atlas, 1984.*Rand McNally, The New International Atlas, 1993....

. The basin is surrounded by rugged karst
Kilometer-square Area Radio Synthesis Telescope is a Chinese telescope project to which FAST is a forerunner. KARST is a set of large spherical reflectors on karst landforms, which are bowlshaped limestone sinkholes named after the Kras region in Slovenia and Northern Italy. It will consist of...

ic limestone
Limestone is a sedimentary rock composed largely of the minerals calcite and aragonite, which are different crystal forms of calcium carbonate . Many limestones are composed from skeletal fragments of marine organisms such as coral or foraminifera....

 hills on the east and south, forming a triangular geographical "trough" covering more than 2169 square kilometres (837.5 sq mi).

During the past two decades, the region has been the object of archaeological investigations at the large Middle and Late Preclassic sites of El Mirador
El Mirador
El Mirador is a large pre-Columbian Mayan settlement, located in the north of the modern department of El Petén, Guatemala.-Discovery:El Mirador was first discovered in 1926, and was photographed from the air in 1930, but the remote site deep in the jungle had little more attention paid to it until...

, Nakbe
Nakbe is one of the largest early Maya archaeological sites, rivaled by El Mirador. Nakbe is located in the The Mirador Basin, in El Petén region of Guatemala, approximately 13 kilometers south of the Largest Maya city of El Mirador...

, El Tintal
El Tintal
El Tintal is a Maya archaeological site in the northern Petén region of Guatemala, about northeast of the modern-day settlement of Carmelita, with settlement dating to the Preclassic and Classic periods. It is close to the better known sites of El Mirador , to which it was linked by causeway,...

, Wakna, the recently discovered sites of Xulnal and El Pesquero, and numerous smaller settlements, dating mostly to the Classic period
Mesoamerican chronology
Mesoamerican chronology divides the history of pre-Columbian Mesoamerica into several periods: the Paleo-Indian , the Archaic , the Preclassic , the Classic , and the Postclassic...

, 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
Naachtun is an archaeological site of the pre-Columbian Maya civilization, situated at the northeastern perimeter of the Mirador Basin region in the southern Maya lowlands, now in the modern-day Department of El Petén, northern Guatemala...

 in the northeast corner which is currently under investigation by a team from the University of Calgary
University of Calgary
The University of Calgary is a public research university located in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Founded in 1966 the U of C is composed of 14 faculties and more than 85 research institutes and centres.More than 25,000 undergraduate and 5,500 graduate students are currently...

 in Canada
Canada is a North American country consisting of ten provinces and three territories. Located in the northern part of the continent, it extends from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west, and northward into the Arctic Ocean...

 (Director: Kathryn Reese-Taylor). The primary settlement of the major sites in the basin dates to the Middle Preclassic (ca. 1000 BCE - 350 BCE) and Late Preclassic periods (ca. 350 BCE - CE 150), with relatively little overburden from the large scale constructions and extensive settlements that characterized the Classic periods (CE 250-900) of Lowland Maya civilization.

Illegal logging
Illegal logging
Illegal logging is the harvest, transportation, purchase or sale of timber in violation of laws. The harvesting procedure itself may be illegal, including using corrupt means to gain access to forests; extraction without permission or from a protected area; the cutting of protected species; or the...

 and forest fires resulting from slash and burn
Slash and burn
Slash-and-burn is an agricultural technique which involves cutting and burning of forests or woodlands to create fields. It is subsistence agriculture that typically uses little technology or other tools. It is typically part of shifting cultivation agriculture, and of transhumance livestock...

 agricultural practices threaten Mirador Basin's rich biodiversity
Biodiversity is the degree of variation of life forms within a given ecosystem, biome, or an entire planet. Biodiversity is a measure of the health of ecosystems. Biodiversity is in part a function of climate. In terrestrial habitats, tropical regions are typically rich whereas polar regions...

. Looting is also a major threat to the many Mayan archaeological sites that reside in the Basin. While many sites are known, others remain undiscovered and, according to Richard Hansen, "by the time scholars get there, looters may already have plundered them."

The region belongs to the Maya Biosphere Reserve
Maya Biosphere Reserve
The Maya Biosphere Reserve is a nature reserve in Guatemala managed by Guatemala's National Council of Protected Areas...

 that represents the last large area of intact tropical rainforest
Tropical rainforest
A tropical rainforest is an ecosystem type that occurs roughly within the latitudes 28 degrees north or south of the equator . This ecosystem experiences high average temperatures and a significant amount of rainfall...

 remaining in Mesoamerica
Mesoamerica is a region and culture area in the Americas, extending approximately from central Mexico to Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica, within which a number of pre-Columbian societies flourished before the Spanish colonization of the Americas in the 15th and...

. Archaeological and environmental
Natural environment
The natural environment encompasses all living and non-living things occurring naturally on Earth or some region thereof. It is an environment that encompasses the interaction of all living species....

 studies conducted by the Mirador Basin Project, 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 civilization
Maya civilization
The Maya is a Mesoamerican civilization, noted for the only known fully developed written language of the pre-Columbian Americas, as well as for its art, architecture, and mathematical and astronomical systems. Initially established during the Pre-Classic period The Maya is a Mesoamerican...

 in this area. 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
Idaho State University
Idaho State University is a public university located in Pocatello, Idaho. It has outreach programs in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho Falls, Boise, and Twin Falls....

, where Hansen is the Chief Senior Scientist.

Research and development of the Mirador Basin occurs in close cooperation and collaboration with the Guatemalan Institute of Anthropology and History
Instituto de Antropología e Historia
The Instituto de Antropología e Historia is the national institute in Guatemala responsible for the protection and maintenance of Guatemala's historical and archaeological sites, monuments, artefacts, and other aspects of the nation's cultural heritage.IDAEH was established by governmental decree...

 (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
Consejo Nacional de Areas Protegidas
The National Council of Protected Areas of Guatemala is a government agency responsible for the conservation, rehabilitation, and protection of Guatemala's natural resources and its biodiversity.-Guatemalan System of Protected Areas:Under the authority of CONAP is the Guatemalan System of...

 (CONAP), and the Presidency of the Republic of Guatemala
Guatemala is a country in Central America bordered by Mexico to the north and west, the Pacific Ocean to the southwest, Belize to the northeast, the Caribbean to the east, and Honduras and El Salvador to the southeast...

. In addition, projects work closely with community organizations in the department of Petén
Petén or Peten may refer to:*Petén , a department of Guatemala*Petén Basin, the geographical / archaeological region of Mesoamerica and a center of the Maya civilization*Lake Petén Itzá, a lake in the Petén Basin region...

. The Inter-American Development Bank
Inter-American Development Bank
The Inter-American Development Bank is the largest source of development financing for Latin America and the Caribbean...

, along with The National Geographic Society
National Geographic Society
The National Geographic Society , headquartered in Washington, D.C. in the United States, is one of the largest non-profit scientific and educational institutions in the world. Its interests include geography, archaeology and natural science, the promotion of environmental and historical...

, the Foundation for Maya Cultural and Natural Heritage- Fundación del Patrimonio Cultural y Natural Maya (PACUNAM), the Global Heritage Fund
Global Heritage Fund
Global Heritage Fund is a non-profit organization that operates internationally. Its mission statement says that it exists to protect and preserve significant and endangered cultural heritage sites in the developing world, through scientific excellence and community development...

, 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 projects in the Basin.

External links

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