(from Yucatee Maya:
Chichen Itza: “at the mouth of the well of the Itza”)
Archaeological Site is a large Mayan city in
peninsula. Chichen Itza is
located not far from another popular tourist destinations as
Maya and many others.
of Chichen Itza Archaeological Site
Pictures don’t give enough credit to the magnitude and size of
the city. Without a doubt Chichen Itza is one of the most impressive
construction complexes of the pre- Columbian Era. Climbing and
exploring the city might easily take the whole day. The best time to
get there is early in the morning when the jungle is full of birds
and animals. Although the site opens at 8 am you can ask for an
yearly admission. Prepare to whine, cry and beg if you really want
it. If you will be good enough security might let you in. Empty
massive structures of Chichen Itza along with sounds and presence of
the wildlife makes this archaeological site an unforgettable
experience. Around noon tourists form a huge line at the entrance
and scare all the wildlife.
Little is known about origins of
history of Chichen Itza. Its role as major regional centre is
approximately dated from the Late Classic to Early Post-classic
period. Unlike many other Mayan cities, Chichen Itza was not
governed by a single ruler. Instead all decisions were made by a
counsel of elders.
Most of buildings in the southern part of
the city were build by Maya between 700AD and 900 AD. Temple of
Kukulkan, Temple of Warriors and Ball Court were build later and
show Toltec influence. Cultural diffusion brought new styles to
Chichen Itza, new deities and of course human sacrifices on an
unprecedented scale. Artefacts found on the size indicate that
Chichen Itza was centre of wide trade web from North Mexico to
Panama. Historians are uncertain reasons and time of the decline of
this metropolis. Some evidences indicate that overpopulation and
subsequent starvation caused the city to decline by 1000 AD. Other
sources blame the downfall to rebellion and civil war that broke out
in 1221. Burned ceiling over Temple of the Warriors and Great Market
certainly suggest this course of violent actions. Regardless that
was the core reason for such decline or combination of such Chichen
Itza never recovered. Although it was not fully abandoned and temple
were used for worship of old Gods until arrival of the Spaniards, no
new monuments were build. In 1531 conquistador Francisco de Montejo
tried to turn Chichen Itza into a new capitol of the Spanish
province. Maya rebellion cancelled these plans and drove him out of
of Chichen Itza Archaeological Site
It would be a good idea to take a map for a tour of Chichen Itza.
Complex of buildings is spread on an area of 5 sq. km (2 sq. mi). It is
easy to miss some structures spread over large area and partially hidden
by a tropical rainforest. It can be quiet disappointing.
oldest part of Chichen Itza is its eastern cluster of buildings
including the Red House, the Nunnery, Caracol, Iglesia and Ossuary.
These were constructed between 6th and 10th century AD. The buildings
around Kukulcan temple were constructed after conquest by the Toltec
tribes. The king of Tula Ce Acatl Topiltzin Quetzalcoatl took Chichen
Itza somewhere between 967 and 987. New rulers of the city introduced
their own architectural style that really stepped up with the human
sacrifices that were rare among the Mayans.
El Castillo (The castle) (Chichen Itza
El Castillo or "The Castle" sits
in the center of
Chichen Itza. This is the first structure you will see once
you enter the
Chichen Itza. At 30 meters (75 feet) high and 55.3 meters on a side it is an impressive feat of
engineering. Build approximately between 11th and 13th
centuries it is devoted to god Kukulkan (feathered serpent). During
spring (March 20th) and autumn equinox (September 21st) pyramid casts a
shadow along a staircase that
look like a snake that creeps down the side of the building. There are 91 steps on four
sides of the pyramid and with the top platform that makes 365 after days
in the year. Nine levels of the pyramid represent nine levels of the
El Castillo also presents interesting sound effects. Anyone
standing on the top platform can talk normally and yet it is heard on
the way on the bottom. Another interesting phenomenon can be observed on
the ground. If you clap your hands it will produce a sound that is
almost identical (according to sonogram) to quetzal, a bird that was
believed to bring messages from the Gods. In the time of Spanish
invasion pyramid was reportedly used as a castle armed with cannons for
Francisco de Montejo. Like many other temples in the region, El Castillo
is build on top of at least one older pyramid. It is open now to public
and accessible through a tunnel that starts at the Northern side.
Unfortunately few years ago Californian woman fell to her death and thus
the pyramid is now closed.
of the Warrior
(Chichen Itza Archaeological Site)
of the Warriors of
is named after columns that support the main building.
Each depicts warriors that were legendary for the Maya. Difference in
details of these depicted heroes suggest that they were from different
tribes and actually lived in this multicultural city. A statue of Chac-Mool in a form of a human with a cup on top of the pyramid.
Although there is no definitive explanation for the purpose of the
figure it was most likely used for offerings to the Gods. These gifts
included human sacrifices as well. Area adjacent to the temple has a
large number of columns that are believed to hold a roof over a market
and thus this area is called the Great Market. Parts of the roofs are
still visible, but building is heavily damaged, presumable by invading
Venus Platform and
Tzompantli (Platform of the skulls) (Chichen Itza
Venus Platform and Platform of the Skulls or Wall of the
Skulls is situated not
far from El Castillo. These two structures were religious points where people
were sacrificed. Tzompantli (originally a Toltec word) is believed to be
a place for sacrifices after the Ball court games. It is covered rows of
carvings of human sculls. Venus Platform is not far is also covered by
grim reminder of the past. Although it was originally covered by
paintings blood from the killings covered over the whole altar. It is
not very high, but it is also prohibited from climbing. You can do it
quickly if you want, even if you get caught no one will throw you out.
The Great Ball court (Chichen Itza
is the largest structure of its kind in the
Mayan World and all of
Central America. The court for the game is huge. It is measured at
166 meters by 68 meters (545 by 232 feet) with walls on each side reaching a
height of 12 meters.
you find yourself there you are amazed by the scale of the structure.
The ball game itself had religious purpose rather than competition
between athletes. Two rings on each side of the
playing field have intertwined serpents. The purpose of the game is to
make a rubber ball through these rings. The only parts of the body they
could use are hips, elbows and wrists.
It is not known whether the
losers were sacrificed or the winners accepted this high "honor". The last
version is widely believed to be the truth. However depictions on the
walls of the court clearly indicate that the end of the game usually
ended with decapitation of one of the teams involved. In
the North sideline of the court there is a North Temple also known as
the Temple of the Bearded Man due to the relief that depicts a man that
seems to have a beard.
on the other side was much larger, but lays in ruins.
of the High Priest (The Ossuary) (Chichen Itza
of the High Priest
is basically the smaller version of El Castillo. It is named by Thomson
after he discovered burial of the high priest while conducting
archaeological digs in Chichen Itza. Many other important
figures’ tombs were found in the shaft located in the Ossuary.
Platform of the Eagles and the Jaguars (Chichen Itza
of the Eagles and the Jaguars was a ceremonial structure that
was probably dedicated to two types of soldiers in the Mayan
Chichen Itza. One group were called the Eagles and dressed war gear with
feathers of an eagle, while another group of soldiers were
called the Jaguars. They often wore a skin of a jaguar into
battle. Their job was to gather unfortunate victims for the
brutal bloody religious ceremonies.
Las Monjas (The Nunnery)
and Eglesia (The Church) (Chichen Itza
These two buildings are one
of the oldest buildings in
Chichen Itza. Their modern names were given the
Spaniards at their arrival on Yucatan peninsula. The Nuns or the Nunnery
actually served as a palace for the earlier rulers of the city. This Puuc style building possible also served as a meeting place for the
council of Chichen Itza. Originally it consisted of a single level.
Later a second story was added around 9th century AD. The Church has among its many
carvings representation of armadillo, crab, snail and turtle. Animals
that were believed by the Maya to hold the sky.
El Caracol (Observatory) (Chichen Itza
Caracol is Spanish for “snail” given to this building due to its
architectural appearance. It is an unusual stricture with the
staircase inside the round building. It was used as an observatory with the
windows aligned with four setting points of the sun during equinoxes.
Mayan Civilization was predominantly an agricultural society so it was
important to know the cycles of the year. Crops could fail or be wiped
out by the hurricanes if they were planted at the wrong time of the
Cenote Sagrado (Chichen Itza
Northern Yucatan Peninsula is fairly dry and arid through most of the year. It has few rivers
or lakes above land level that were
accessible all- year long. However Yukatan Peninsula has a huge network of underground
rivers and cavers. Water in these sunken caves undermine its walls and
roof by dissolving limestone causing upper levels to cave in and sink.
These sinkholes (cenote) are only stable sources of freshwater.
these cenote are found within boundaries of
Chichen Itza. Cenote Sagrado (Sacred Cenote) is the most famous due to large numbers
of artifacts and bones of sacrificed victims recovered from this site
during excavation by American consul Edward Herbert Thomson from 1904 to
1910. Offerings were made to Maya rain god Chaac from a small platform
situated on a side of the sinkhole. Usually sacrifices included products
that peasants grew on the fields or personal object of value. In
difficult times sacrifices were more tragic. Priests of Chichen Itza
brought women (rarely men) to the platform on a side of sink hole
and after completing ceremony and their prayers shoved into watery
graves. Most of people couldn't swim at the time and hence they
quickly sank to the bottom along with offerings to the gods.
Few women who did survive initial fall and managed to stay afloat
for considerable amount of times were raised by the residence of the
city. High Priest of Chichen Itza put a woman on the platform again,
but this time she was lying on her stomach and had to gaze into
greenish water of the cenote. If she tried to raise her head and
glance at anyone around her priest would hit her across the head
forcing her to look down again. Mayans believed that anything she
would say were message conveyed through her by the gods. Once the
message was received poor victims was shoved back into murky and
smelly water of the natural well.
Steam Bath (
Ruins of the Mayan Steam bath are situated in the far corner of
Chichen Itza. It is not particularly big or incredibly
impressive. However in the past it played an important role in a
pagan religion of the Mayans. It served as a type of a religious ceremonial
sauna. Priests and anyone who participated in the ceremony came
here to cleanse themselves from filth. They came to this small
building to achieve that. A small entrance to the structure
meant that people had to crawl here on all fours to get inside.
Once inside high temperature caused men to sweat. Dirt was
scraped from the skin by participants of the ceremony. Parts of
the roof today have collapsed so it is easier to get inside than
Colorada (Red House) (Chichen Itza
Casa Colorado or simply Red House is a small
platform with a temple situated on top. The name of the temple
rather than a house comes from the color of its walls that have
distinct remains of red color that once covered the whole
structure. Despite centuries of neglect and abandonment traces
of the original colors are still visible.
Chichen Itza Archaeological Site
Sacbe is an religious ceremonial road that is common not only in Chichen
Itza, but throughout a Mayan World. Mayans didn't choose the easy route
when they had to construct their paths of communications. Instead of
making paths on the flat ground and covering them with slabs, Mayans
actually created long narrow platforms made of stone and mortar. Once
these structures were completed road were laid on top of these