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But the temple-pyramid of La Danta unearthed by Hansen at El Mirador and similarly ornamented with intricate carvings is a shade higher, at 236 feet.
The main reason the 300,000-odd tourists who visit Tikal every year don’t flock in equal numbers to the Mirador Basin to look at its vastly larger wonders is because they can’t, unless they are intrepid or rich.
What Idaho is most famous for, though, are the potatoes, all of which are grown in the Snake River valley, a crescent-shaped rolling plain that tracks the Snake River for 400 miles across the southern portion of the state from the Oregon border nearly to Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming.
Rupert is a town of 5,500 near the center of the valley, a few miles north of the Snake, and surrounded by vast potato and sugar-beet fields.
When the jungle vegetation was peeled back, the ruins of the El Mirador complex were revealed to be four times the size of the sculpture-studded complex at Tikal, a once-powerful Mayan city-state and a popular Guatemalan tourist destination that is the crown jewel of Mayan architecture.
At 230 feet, the highest of Tikal’s soaring ziggurat-shaped temple-pyramids was once considered the tallest Mayan structure.
Hansen’s annual excavation budget for the project is in the range of .5 million, dwarfing the 0,000 to 0,000 a year that most archaeologists are able to scrape together from grants for their more modest digs. Hansen is the director of what is probably the largest archaeological excavation in the world, the Mirador Basin Project, some 51 ancient Mayan cities connected by raised causeways along an 840-square-mile elevated trough in the middle of the dense and swampy rainforest of the northern Guatemalan lowlands.Hansen’s annual excavation budget for the project is in the range of .5 million, dwarfing the 0,000 to 0,000 a year that most archaeologists are able to scrape together from grants for their more modest digs.The ancient Mayan structures in the Mirador Basin, uncovered by Hansen’s team of archaeologists, conservators, soil scientists, students from 66 different research universities and institutions, and up to 400 local Guatemalan workmen, are startlingly massive in both height and volume.El Mirador alone likely had a population of 200,000, in contrast to the mere 90,000 who lived in and built Tikal, Hansen believes.“It was boggling to think we were standing on the labor of thousands of people from antiquity, and to imagine their vanished metropolis,” But the sheer size of the Mirador Basin settlement isn’t what made Richard Hansen famous.