The Mirador Basin is a geographically-defined elevated basin of 2,169 square kilometers found in the remote rainforest of the Maya Biosphere Reserve in the northern department of Petén, Guatemala. The basin is named after El Mirador, which is an immense archaeological site within the basin.
The region is part of the last large area of intact tropical forest in Mesoamerica. Together with the reserves of Tikal National Park, the eastern Petén and the Calakmul Biosphere Reserve in southern Mexico, the Mirador Basin represents the last refuge of tropical flora and fauna in Central America, creating an area large enough to guarantee the survival of threatened species.
The Mirador Basin is currently receiving additional attention due to the incomparable archaeological value of the region: The area contains some of the earliest and largest cities in the Mayan World, the concentration of ancient sites in this region is incredibly high and the size of the monumental architecture is unprecedented in the Western Hemisphere.
Preclassic Maya sites of El Mirador
During the past two decades, the region has been the object of scientific investigations at the large Preclassic Maya sites of El Mirador, Nakbe, and numerous other settlements. Dozens of additional sites are dispersed within the Basin, including several extremely large ones such as Naachtun in the northeast corner. The region furthermore contains important data relevant to the origins and early development of the Maya civilization.
Although protected under the Maya Biosphere Reserve, the Mirador Basin’s conservation is threatened by local agriculturalists and cattle ranchers in search of new land. These intrusive settlements are highly threatening to the reserve for the slash and burn method of gaining land from the jungle. Fire is set to the land during the peak of the dry season often causing uncontrollable forest fires. Other threats are major logging, drug trafficking, looting and poaching.
The Mirador Basin is currently being considered for protection by the Congress of the Republic of Guatemala. It is proposed as a wilderness area, with limited or no road access. The Mirador Basin Project (a project for archaeological investigation in Northern Petén directed by Idaho State University archaeologist Dr. Hansen), together with several other organizations such as the Global Heritage Fund, Conservation International, and the Association of Friends of the Cultural and Natural Patrimony of Guatemala are working continuously to protect this unique region.