Photos in this page by galasdeguatemala.com, used with authorization.
Welcome to one of Guatemala City's best kept secrets, and one of the many sites filled with mystical mysteries with a rich cultural and historical legacy, not just for Guatemala, but also for the world, as the civilization that flourished here dates back to 1,5000 years BC.
Kaminaljuyu has been described as one of the greatest of all archaeological sites in the New World by Michael Coe, although the remains of the site today are less impressive than many other Maya sites more frequented by tourists. This important site has revealed a lot about Maya ceramics, sculpture, architecture and engineering. This site was the main producer of Obsidian and also controlled the commerce routs between the Pacific Lowlands, the Highlands, and the Peten Lowlands for centuries.
Kaminaljuyu lies in a valley in the west side of Guatemala City and contains a total of over 100 platforms and mounds created before the end of the Pre Classic period (ending approximately in the year 150 BC). The valley is surrounded by hills which culminate in a string of lofty volcanoes to the south that separate the area from the Pacific Lowlands. At an altitude of 7,000 feet above sea level, the climate is temperate and the soil is rich due to frequent volcanic eruptions.
The Pre Classic phase (a.k.a. Miraflores phase) is the foundation for later eras of the Classic Maya to flourish. Cultures of this phase developed exceptional irrigation systems and had a stable agricultural community. The remains from this time period are abundant at Kaminaljuyu. It is known that they traded cotton with their neighbors in the Escuintla area and practiced loom-weaving and were expert potters.
Religious practices that would later be further developed throughout Mesoamerica were taking root at this time, such as mounds to serve as substructures for small shrines or temples and ritual burial of the dead. The abundance of remains from this period at Kaminaljuyu indicate it was the seat of a large community.
The site was first excavated in 1,925 by Manuel Gamio when he made stratigraphic excavations and found deep cultural deposits yielding potsherds and clay figurines from the Middle to late Preclassic (1,500 BC to 150 AC). Later the extent of the site’s importance was discovered in 1935 when a local football club accidentally uncovered a buried structure and the name was given: Kaminal Juyú from the Ki´ché words meaning "hills of the dead".
As you can see in the photo to the left, the area was largely swallowed up by real estate developments in the late 20th century, although a portion of the center of Kaminaljuyu is preserved as a park.