Chichen Itza

Authored by Fahim Hashmi



Overview

Chichen Itza is one of the Seven Wonders of the New World. It is located on the Yucatan Peninsula in present day Mexico. It built by the Ancient Mayan civilization. During its day it was a major economic, social, cultural, and political capital of the region. This was around 600 AD. The architectural style is a mix between ancient styles from Central Mexican civilizations and the nearby Puuc Mayans. The current site is owned by the federal government of Mexico, and not any private entity. Chichen Itza is considered a UNESCO World Heritage Site.


History

Archaeologists speculate that the site was suitable for a city because of the existence of two cenotes (large water filled sink holes) that could have provided a substantial water source for the site’s inhabitants. Around 600 AD, an until the Terminal Classic period in Mayan History, Chichen Itza was a very prominent cultural, political, and economic center in the Yucatan and Mayan center. The Political structure of the site was widely agreed to be ruled by a council of elite members of Mayan society. This is in contrast to the normally dynastic or one-person rule usually found at other Mayan sites. However, recent findings have cast doubt over the truthfulness of the council system, and the site may have had a single ruler being succeeded in a dynastic fashion. As a major economic bastion in the region, Chichen Itza saw many goods being traded in its marketplaces. Materials such as obsidian and gold were brought in from other regions, showing the power of Chichen Itza in its day. The site slowly declined in use and power throughout the 16th century. And was slowly abandoned by its inhabitants.

The Site

The North Group has the following:

The area of Chichen Itza is composed of many different ancient stone ruins. Some are in better condition that others in the area. There are roads known as “sacbeob” that weave themselves throughout the city. Archaeologists have found over one hundred of these stone roads in the site at Chichen Itza, going from many different buildings. The Temple of Kukulkan, also referred to as El Castillo (The Castle) is one of the buildings of note at the site. El Castillo is a step pyramid made of stone, with a temple constructed at the top. It is worth noting that during the Autumn and Spring equinox, the sides of the pyramids corners cast a shadow of a plumed serpent on the sides of the main steps. This is a popular tourism attraction at the site. Also, the current temple is actually constructed atop and older temple. The older temple was discovered during the 1930s which contained many ancient artifacts. There is also a Great Ball Court, for playing the Mesoamerican Ancient Ballgame. The bll court measures 545 ft by 223 ft and is surrounded by 39 ft high stone walls. There are benches which show panels of the ball players, one of the panels shows a ball player who has been decapitated, his blood turning into serpents. The North Temple is at one end of the ball court, the east wall has the Temples of the Jaguar. Divided into the Upper and Lower temples. There is also a monument called “Tzompantli” which is surrounded by carved images of human skulls. Adjacent to the El Castillo are the platforms of the Eagles and of the Jaguars. Each showing descriptions of the animals they are named after. There is also a platform between the Cenote Sagrado and the El Castillo which is built in honor of the planet Venus. It is known as the “Platform of Venus” The Cenote Sagrado is a sacred sinkhole that is filled with water. It is 200 feet in diameter and drops to the water table after an 89 foot drop. This was a place for the Mayan people to come for pilgrimage, and would conduct many sacrifices of people and animals. Archaeologists have found things such as child skeletons, gold, jade, obsidian, shell, wood, cloth, and men’s skeletons at the bottom of the cenote. There is also a Temple of the Warriors, which is a large stepped pyramid which is surrounded by stones showing carvings of many warriors. At the south of this area is “The Group of a Thousand Columns” These columns are free standing in the present day, but were initially used to hold up a large roof system, which has since been destroyed. There is a Steam Bath and a Market Square at the south end.




The Ossario Group has the following:

The Ossario as a step pyramid like the El Castillo. There is a Temple of Xtoloc near the ossario. There are the House of the Metates and House of the Mestizas.



The Casa Colorada Group has the following:

Las Monjas are a group of buildings made in the Puuc style of architecture. The El Caracol is a round building with a stone spiral staircase inside. The Akab Dzib is a small building with a small height. It’s name means “Dark Writing”. Old Chichen is a small group of random temples.



The Central Group has the following:

The Casa Colorada is a single building, but it considered the most preserved at the site. There are many hieroglyphs which show the rulers of the site. There is the House of the Deer, which is also in good preserved state.



The Caves of Balankance

These holy caves are near the site. They contain many different religious offerings inside them. These caves have idol and pottery that have been untouched since pre-Colombian times.



References


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chichen_Itza#Archaeological_investigations