Chichen Itza

Mexico - Chichen ItzaPhoto by Celso Flores

In the north of the Yucatan peninsula, deeply hidden in the endless forests, lies the mysterious holy city of Maya – Chichen Itza. Located halfway between Mérida and Cancun, it is the northernmost Mayan archaeological site. It is also the one with the most monuments on a single large area of over 300 hectares. Its stone monuments clearly show 1,000 years of the Mayan culture and other people who have influenced the architecture and art of Mesoamerican area, such as mixture of the Mayan way of building with middle Mexican Toltec influences.

Some of the surviving buildings, such as the warrior Temple, El Castillo and El Caracol Observatory are the most representative buildings of Mayan-Toltec civilization in general. Therefore, the Chichen Itza is on the UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites in the United States since 1988. The city was built in the 6th century, it was a place suitable for habitation because of the proximity of two major water sources. The “chi” (source) ‘chen’ (well, spring) could be translated as ‘source of the well’, while Itza is the name of the Mayan tribe that settled there.

Kukulkan pyramid

Pyramid is located approximately in the center of Chichen Itza, and its height is about 24 meters. Mayans are known for having well-developed calendar, and they used that knowledge in building the pyramids.

One of examples is that each side has 91 steps, which together with the final platform, actually a temple, makes 365 days, symbolizing the days of the year. Proof of their knowledge of astronomy is the spring and autumn equinox, when visitors have the opportunity to see a unique play of light.

Specifically, in those days the sun shadow gives the illusion of snake crawling down the piramid until it merges with carved snake heads at the bottom of the stairs. And the snake is a symbol of the god Kukulkan. This special event annually gathers thousands of people. The Mayans developed on that place one more peculiarity. It is the acoustics, which is special all over the place, but pyramid has its own –it creates the melody! If you clap at the bottom of the pyramid, it will render the melody of a birdsong of the Quetzal bird. In short, we could say that the Mayas forever immortalized song of their sacred bird!

Large playground

The Maya built in their cities a number of playgrounds, in Chichen Itza they build the greatest and the biggest of them all. ‘The big playground’ measures 166 meters with 68 meters. On this playground they build walls, where there are reliefs with a rather disturbing depictions. They show how one team holds the head of the opposing team, which suggests that it was a ritual game, which ended in sacrifice to the gods. The rules were roughly consisted in sending a leather ball through a stone ring of opponent. Players are allowed to hit the ball with the knees, hips and elbows, so it’s easy to visualize how difficult it was to score a goal.

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