Abstract: The Mirador Basin: The Cultural and Natural Legacy in the Cradle of Maya Civilization
Major investigations in the Mirador Basin of northern Guatemala have revealed an extraordinary concentration of large and early ancient Maya cities nestled within the geographical confines of an integrated cultural and natural system. The research has demonstrated both the size and scale of human settlement, primarily within the Preclassic periods, within the basin. The resultant social and political centralization in the Middle and Late Preclassic periods led to the construction of the largest pyramids in the world, the largest ancient Maya cities, the first "freeway" system in the world, and the first true state level society in the Western Hemisphere. The multi-disciplinary approach of investigation has provided new justification for the conservation and responsible development of the area, and suggests that investigation, conservation, and social development has to progress simultaneously to be effective agents for the long-term preservation of endangered and important cultural heritage sites.