El Mirador is a large pre-Columbian Mayan settlement, located in the north of the modern department of El Petén, Guatemala.
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 Ian Graham spent some time there making the first map of the area in 1962. A detailed investigation was begun in 1978 with an archaeological project under the direction of Dr. Bruce Dahlin (Catholic University of America) and Dr. Ray Matheny (Brigham Young University).
Dahlin's work focused primarily on the bajo swamps and mapping, while Matheny's team focused primarily on excavations in the site center and architecture. This project ended in 1983.
To the surprise of the archaeologists, it was found that a large amount of construction was not contemporary with the large Maya classic cities in the area, like Tikal and Uaxactun, but rather from centuries earlier in the Pre-Classic era.
A Boost for Tourism
In 2003, Dr. Richard D. Hansen, a Senior Scientist from Idaho State University, initiated major investigation, stabilization, and conservation programs at El Mirador with a multi-disciplinary approach, including staff and technical personnel from 52 universities and research institutions from throughout the world. By August 2008, the team had published 168 scientific papers, and produced 474 technical reports and scientific presentations as well as documentary films in the History Channel, National Geographic, the Learning Channel, BBC, ABC's 20/20 and Good Morning America, 60 Minutes (Australia), and the Discovery Channel.
Although containing striking examples of Preclassic Maya civilization, the remote location of El Mirador has prevented it from becoming a popular tourist site. Major plans by the current government of Guatemala are including El Mirador as an important center of the Cuatro Balam Conservation and Development project.