December 20, 2012 may not have brought the end of the world (the 5200 year Mayan "Long Count" calendar ended that day), but it sadly did bring an end to some VERY important — and irreplaceable — elements of ancient history.
More than 7000 people flocked to Guatemala for an "end of the world" party in front of the impressive ancient stone temple at Tikal — the largest archaeological site and most important urban center of the ancient Mayan civilization.
Drawn to the history of the site, and the ceremonies being performed by native Mayan priests (42% of Guatemala's 14.3 million residents are native Mayan), these visitors paid little attention to the rules of this delicate UNESCO World Heritage Site. Though it is forbidden to climb the stairs of the 125ft (38m) temple, the end-of-the-worlders could not be controlled on the eve of the alleged world's end, and damage has been done to the temple that can never be repaired.
Because the Mayans covered their temples in carvings, writing and stories, some VERY important history has been destroyed.
What's A UNESCO World Heritage Site Anyway?
Twenty-six new UNESCO World Heritage Sites were added to the list in 2012, including sites in Chad, Congo, Palau, and Palestine for the first time! This is REALLY exciting... if you know what a UNESCO World Heritage Site is. UNESCO stands for the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, and is a branch of the United Nations (UN) that... more