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North of Guatemala City lie the 12th-century Mayan ruins of Mixco Viejo. The mountaintop site, thought to be largely ceremonial, was one of the last Mayan places to fall to Pedro de Alvarado and the conquistadors in 1525. Excavation began on the site's 120 structures in 1954.
Temples and palaces make up Mixco Viejo, but most notably it contains several ball courts used in the ballgame of pitziil, a game with many variations seen throughout pre-Columbian indigenous civilizations. (Historians today group the games under the general heading ulama, a Nahuatl word meaning simply "ballgame.") Objectively, it resembled a mix of soccer and volleyball, but for the Maya, pitziil transcended mere sport, providing a cosmic link between mortals and gods, between past and future.
Mixco Viejo is no Tikal or Quiriguá, but it's a favored destination for weekend visitors from the capital, who come for the splendid views of the surrounding countryside. A small museum documents the history of the site.
60 km (36 mi) north of Guatemala City, Guatemala City, Departamento de Guatemala, 01057, Guatemala
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