CHICHEN ITZÁ

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Archaeological Site of CHICHEN ITZA

Chichen Itzá
Chichen Itzá

Chi-ch ‘en ltzá’ (the city on the edge of the well of the Itza), was the most important regional capital of the Mayan area in the years 750 to 1200 AD, a bridge between the Mesoamerican Classic and Postclassic periods.

His remains, still well preserved, confirm the fame assigned to him by the chronicles and indigenous legends of Yucatan. Its vestiges show that the traditional Mayan civilization was enriched with other cultural currents of Mesoamerica.

The archaeological site is in the north-central part of the Yucatan peninsula; It is located 120 km from the city of Mérida, Yucatán, and its access is by federal highway no. 180.

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Map of CHICHEN ITZA

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According to ceramic evidence, there was human occupation in the Chichén ltzá region from the Upper Preclassic to the last millennium before our era. But it was until the end of the Classic and early Postclassic when the site acquired the proportions and urban characteristics that we admire today.

The first buildings were erected following the Puuc architectural style, characteristic of the thriving Mayan cities of Uxmal, Kabah and Sayil, which were established in the range of the same name. In most of them the Puuc style marks its peak, but also its final flowering.

The Castle
The Castle

However, in Chichén ltzá a style of its own was developed, which integrated, on the basis of the Puuc, concepts, forms and images from other areas of Mexico, especially from the Gulf coast and the central highlands, since with the distant TuJa, Capital of the historic Toltecs (in the current state of Hidalgo) the closest relationships were found in the areas of planning, architectural style and iconography.

There is also a Mexican or Mayan-Toltec style of Chichen ltzá. Unfortunately, much data is lacking to better explain and date the evolution of the different periods. The cultural model developed in Chichén ltzá seems to have been quite successful and flexible, for this reason it was able to maintain power in the region for a long time and control events in Yucatán.

Military might (frequently expressed in pictorial representations of the site), control of trade routes, exploitation of salt in the north, and rich agricultural areas in the south, may have formed its basic material elements, supported also by the ideological factor of the possession of the Sacred Cenote, entrance to the underworld of the Mayans. The decline of Chichén ltzá is related to the emergence of Mayapán as the new center of power in Yucatán.

Since the 13th century, the inhabited part of the city was very small. In the 16th century, El Castillo and the Sacred Cenote still functioned as stages for large processions that consulted their oracle; however, the large buildings were no longer maintained.

However, a nearby town, of the lineage of the Cupules, rejected a first Hispanic attempt to establish their colonial capital in the ruins, taking advantage of the immense symbolic value that this would have had for the conquest; possibly it was the town of Pisté that still has a Mayan population and is settled in the western part of Chichén ltzá.

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Site Description

The Chichen ltzá site covers about 15 km2; most of the structures are distributed over a system of large levels and squares in the central part. They are constructions that show numerous changes and remodeling during their use. To the huge terrace dominated by El Castillo and the so-called Patio de las Mil Columnas (Patio of a Thousand Columns) follow, to the south, the Platform of the Osario and the great Plaza de las Monjas y el Caracol. Minor groups of monumental architecture are distributed in a distance of 200 to 700 meters.

El Cenote
El Cenote
El Castillo (The Castle)

It is a stepped pyramid of nine bodies with a staircase on each of its four sides; these lead to a temple, built on the upper platform, which presents a central sanctuary with two interior pillars, surrounded by a gallery. Inside the Castle has an earlier construction stage that has a frieze with representations of jaguars, a sculpture of Chac Mool and the jaguar throne, painted bright red and inlaid with jade and shell.

Access to this structure is through a modern tunnel, excavated over the original staircase. Possibly, El Castillo was dedicated to the cult of Kukulcán, since due to its orientation, the days of the spring and autumn equinoxes, a succession of triangles is drawn on one of the lateral walls of the alfarda, and through a play of light and shadow, a succession of triangles that simulates the body of a snake.

El Gran Juego de Pelota (Great Ball Court Game)

It is located in the northwest corner of the plaza. Seen from the inside, it consists of two high and parallel walls in the center of which are embedded two stone rings and some benches adorned with bas-reliefs. At each end of the court stands a temple or tribune.

On the east wall, the Temple of the Jaguars is located, at the back of which there is a fully sculpted chamber; In it, polychrome representations of warriors, priests and a multitude of animals and aquatic plants are observed, which suggests that the ball game, in addition to being a sporting event, also had a religious character.

Great Court Ball Game
Great Court Ball Game
Tzompantli

The reliefs that cover the enormous Tzompantli, ‘Platform of the skulls’, are of the Mayan-Toltec style. Next to it there are two small platforms (located to the north of El Castillo) that of Jaguares and Águilas and that of the planet Venus, which marks the beginning of the road to the Sacred Cenote or the Sacrifices.

The Cenote

It is almost circular, it is 60 m in diameter; the straight walls are about 22m high. It was the deposit of numerous offerings of ceramics, stone, metal, textiles, wood, etc., since the cenote was used for ritual purposes. The Mayans believed that the rain gods lived here and made sacrifices and offerings.

The remains of human sacrifices are striking, but their number is very small if one considers the duration of the Cenote cult. On the southern shore of the river there are the remains of a construction that looks like a steam bath that was used for purification rites.

The Market

In this building the Mayan builders installed the portico with the widest and longest vault and the tallest columns in the area. It is also worth a visit to the Steam Bath, a construction that shows the architectural principles of the Mayan vault.

Temple of the Warriors

It is part of the so-called Set of the Thousand Columns. It sits in a pyramid-shaped building; Its portico is made up of two columns that look like snakes; Its façade is decorated with masks and, in its lower part, it combines an enormous colonnade that serves as a portico and a passage for the main staircase.

Temple of The Warriors
Temple of The Warriors

Its name is derived from the multitude of characters, mostly armed, that are represented on pillars, columns and stools. The polychrome finish of these relieves is preserved in some places, but especially in another previous building, the Temple of Chac Mool, enclosed within the general structure.

The Snail

Named for a spiral staircase found in its interior, it has also been named The Observatory, since it is possible that this building, round and erected on two rectangular platforms with different orientation, has served to fix astronomical observations. It should be noted that its exterior facade is adorned with masks and human figures surrounded by feathers. Its current appearance is the result of at least six renovations. Several constructions were added to it on the south side, among them cisterns, a steam bath, and an arch, above the sacbé.

Templo de los Tableros (Temple of the Tablets)

It is a small version of the Temple of the Warriors, with a colonnaded portico and a temple raised on the base. It is named for two sculpted paintings that show mythological scenes, with characters, birds, snakes and trees.

Akabdzib

On the other side of a ravine stands the wide and heavy building called Akabdzíb, which means ‘writing in the dark‘. Notable for a lintel engraved on an interior door, in which a character is represented seated on a throne and surrounded by hieroglyphics, from which the name that has been given to the building is derived. It also stands out for a massive rear attachment that probably should have served as the base for a second floor that was never built.

The Snail
The Snail
Las Monjas Complex

This complex is the southern end of the great square in the center. It is the end result of a long series of extensions. Probably its name is due to the fact that the buildings, of numerous rooms, reminded the Spanish of their conventions. The current form is a three-story complex that shows the superposition of the Mayan-Toltec style on the Puuc and the combination of the two, around its patios.

It is recommended to visit the second floor, on which there are long inscriptions on lintels, and a magnificent view of the site and its surroundings. Adjoining this complex is a small building, called La Iglesia, which is distinguished by its ornate decoration on the facade, which integrates geometric elements and deities. It also has a high cresting.

With the exception of the group located in the south, the rest of the monumental architecture is not enabled for your visit. To the south zone, also called Chichén Viejo, belong the Group of the Initial Series, the Group of the Old Castle and the Group of Three and Four Lintels.

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