El Mirador is the cradle of Classic Maya civilization, the first great city. Now swallowed by jungle, two thousand years ago it was a Maya metropolis dotted by numerous pyramid temples, some of them the largest constructions of the Maya world, centuries before the "Classic" period. The city was abandoned before the Classic period began, at least in part due to ecological mismanagement and destruction documented by archaeological projects directed by Richard Hansen. But the Mirador basin was remembered, and scattered activity and settlement continued. The Kan dynasty of Calakmul (which is connected to El Mirador by an ancient road), which dominated much of the Maya world in the 6th and 7th centuries, seem to have clamed the city as their ancestral home.
Shockinlyg, this city only came to light decades after Maya archaeology had become a serious field of study. This was largely due to the remote location of the city and the extremely difficult field conditions. Once the size and age of the city became clear, the entire story of the development of Maya civilization had to be changed, a process that is ongoing.
El Mirador is about to become even more high profile. In his inauguration speech, newly-elected Guatemalan President Alvaro Colom announced plans to open the site the tourism, part of a plan to tame the infamously lawless Peten.