The archaeological site Chichen Itza is the most intact and impressive ruins of the Maya civilization, and witness of glorious times as a religious and political center.
The inhabitants built various structures during pre-classic and classic Maya period, which are all superaltives of similar structures at other sites.
This popular site is a must visit for travelers to the Mexican Caribbean and easily accesible from any beach resort around.
Chronology: As most Maya cities, Chichen Itza had three different periods. During pre-classic, the first structures were built around 550 BC. The Mayans migrated to the East settling down at Chichen Itza due to its location, close to several fresh water proving sinkholes (Chichen Itza: "the mouth of the well of the Itzaes").
Classic Period, from 200 AD to 800 AD, was the period when most of the structures such as El Castillo, Observatory and Ball Game Court were built.
After an unexplained decay of Maya culture and society, at the end of classic period, the site was re-populated by Toltecs migrating from central Mexico to the Yucatan area. This post-classic time is characterized by the introduction a more war-like culture with ritual human sacrifices.
Sinkholes (Cenotes): Chichen Itza achieved its religious and cultural importance due to its favorable location to fresh water, provided by sinkholes which allowed intensive agricultural activities.
One of the cenotes served as place to honor the rain god “Chac” with religious ceremonie, including sacrifices in the late classic and post-classic period.
Excavation at this place revealed numerous religious artifacts as well as partial and complete skeletons.
El Castillo: The most impressive structure is the four-sided pyramid located centrally in the site. El Castillo (The Castle) is actually a testemony of the profound astronomical knowledge of Maya civilization.
This builduing is in fact a solar calendar aligned with earth axis, originating the sunlight effect called the “descent of Kukulcan” during equinoxes: The shadow of the western edge is prjected on the North stairway, giving shape to what appears to be a snake gliding down to the earth.
The snake represents the god Kukulcan, the feathered snake, and its descent from sky to earth implying the fertilization of earth for the coming agricultural season.
The Observatory: This structure, also called the snail, is another testemony of Maya understanding of astronomy and engineering.
The building is a dome containing a variety of windows which allow the observation different astronomical events at specific days of the year.
The complicated structure of a dome aligned exactly to astronomical phenomens implies that the ancient Maya civilization developed extraordinary knowledge of masonary and engineering.
Ball Game Court: The Chichen Itza´s Ball Game Court is the biggest in Mexico. Unusual for its shape if compared with similar structures at other archaeological sites.
Today, it is believed that Maya ball game was deportive and ritual actvitiy for Maya aristocratic society, serving as amusement, as a method to establish political power, and as religious ceremony honoring the gods and accompanied by sacrifice of human beings.
The ball game court in Chichen Itza consists of two parallel rectal walls and tribunes at three sides. Players of the two teams participating in a game, had to shoot a strong rubber ball with nothing but the hips, aiming one of the two rings located centrally on the parallel walls.
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