24 Dec 2012

Mayan temple damaged by party-goers

10:32 am on 24 December 2012

Tourists celebrating the "end of the world" in Guatemala have damaged an ancient stone temple at Tikal, the centre of the Mayan civilisation.

"Sadly, many tourists climbed Temple II and caused damage," said technical adviser Osvaldo Gomez on Sunday.

"We are fine with the celebration, but (the tourists) should be more aware because this is a (UNESCO) World Heritage Site," he said.

AAP reports Mr Gomez did not specify what was done, although he did say it was forbidden to climb the stairs at the site, 550km north of Guatemala City. He indicated that the damage was irreparable.

Temple II, which is about 38 metres high and faces the central Tikal plaza, is one of the site's best known structures.

Friday marked the end of an era that lasted 5200 years, according to the Mayan "Long Count" calendar. Some believed the date also marked the end of the world as foretold by Mayan hieroglyphs.

AAP reports more than 7000 people visited Tikal on Friday to see Mayan priests hold a colourful ceremony and light fires as the sun emerged to mark the new era.

UNESCO declared Tikal a World Heritage Site in 1979. The ancient Mayans reached their peak of power in Central America between the years 250 and 900 AD.