Population estimates for Tikal vary from 10,000 to as high as 90,000 inhabitants, with the most likely figure being at the upper end of this range. Because of the low salt content of the Maya diet, it is estimated that Tikal would have had to import 131 tons of salt each year, based on a conservative population estimate of 45,000.
The population of Tikal began a continuous curve of growth starting in the Preclassic Period (approximately 2000 BC – AD 200), with a peak in the Late Classic with the population growing rapidly from AD 700 through to 830, followed by a sharp decline. For the 120 square kilometres (46 sq mi) area falling within the earthwork defences of the hinterland, the peak population is estimated at 517 per square kilometre (1340 per square mile). In an area within a 12 kilometres (7.5 mi) radius of the site core, peak population is estimated at 120,000; population density is estimated at 265 per square kilometre (689 per square mile). In a region within a 25 kilometres (16 mi) radius of the site core and including some satellite sites, peak population is estimated at 425,000 with a density of 216 per square kilometre (515 per square mile). These population figures are even more impressive because of the extensive swamplands that were unsuitable for habitation or agriculture. However, some archaeologists, such as David Webster, believe these figures to be far too high.
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