CHICHEN ITZA SITE
Chichen ltza, located about 110 miles from Cancun, is undoubtedly the most
famous archaeological site in the Yucatan. It was founded in 445 B.C. and
inhabited until 1204 A.D., when it was mysteriously abandoned. The city is
divided into two segments: Old Chichen, built between 600 and 900 B.C.; and New
Chichen, constructed in the 10th century A.D. At its height, the central city
covered 2 square miles and was surrounded by 10 square miles of residences.
By the beginning of the Terminal Classic period Chichen Itza had become a
major economic and political force in the northern part of the Yucatan. What
makes this site so intriguing is that architectural styles are a blend of
influences and design variations from different groups of Mayans (Puuc and
Chenes, for example) as well as Mexican (ltza and related Toltecs). Murals,
relief's, names glyphs and battle scenes confirm this acculturation.
The civic center of Chichen ltza, which is almost identical to the Toltec
capital of Tula, is separated from outlying areas by a low wall (which is slowly
being restored). This wall was a boundary line which separated classes from one
another, except during ceremonial and other special occasions, inside this
special zone are numerous structures and buildings, which include:
- "Venus Platform" - an elevated rectangular platform with 14
steps leading to the top of each side. Various rituals were conducted here
and, according to some scholars, plays and skits with comical overtones were
sometimes presented to the general public. The name is given because of
decorations and symbols relating to the planet Venus.
- "Great Ball Court" - This is the largest such structure in the
Mayan world. The playing area is I-shaped and about 485 feet long. The
majority of the area is encased by two small temples on each end, a large
temple on the east side and a tall viewing section on the west side. This
configuration makes for excellent acoustics. The interior walls of the
playing field contain reliefs which show scenes of a game and the sacrifice
of the losers.
- "Temple of the Skulls" - located close to the ball court,
this low structure contains a series of reliefs in profile of victims who
were sacrificed after losing a ball game. In a way, such individuals were
thus immortalized and honored. Close inspection of the faces shows how
different they looked.
- "El Castillo" - called the castle. It is 70 feet high and there
are 91 steps on each of the four sides - with one more step added on top.
The total number of steps therefore equals 365. The steps are very narrow
and, once on top, a downward glance looks like a straight drop-off.