No words or even pictures can do justice to the splendor that is Chichen Itza.Only when a visitor has the personal experience of staring down into the cenote of sacrifice, or into the eyes of the red jaguar, is the full force of the past truly felt.
Come indulge in the past, the glory of the Maya and Chichen Itza. The Maya civilization is considered to be one the more complex and brilliant of its time. Dating as far back as 1500 B.C., The Maya flourished until about 900 A.D. in Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula and parts of Guatemala, Belize, Honduras and El Salvador.
Because they made science, writing, mathematics, astronomy, and religion pillars of their lives, the details of this mysterious group continue to intrigue us. Many of their complex hieroglyphs are still un-deciphered, making it difficult to fully understand the few scriptures we have from their time. What has been concluded, however, is that Maya people were fascinated with the sky, and most of their activities were based upon different cycles of the sun, planets, moon, and stars.
Their astrological observations were written down in several codices, which now provide us with a multitude of data related to the paths of celestial bodies. From the observations they made, the Maya people were able to predict agricultural events, eclipses, and develop a calendar that was more accurate than the one we use today. Chichen Itza was the mayor city of the Post classic Maya.
It was a place for mystery and magic, and power so pervasive, those centuries after its decline it was considered holy. Monumental architecture marks the center of a city that in its day covered more than 25 sq kilometers. Settlers appeared in the area as early as 300 B.C., but not until 750 A.D. is there evidence of urban planning. By 900 A.D. and under the Maya, Chichén Itzá is a thriving metropolis of 50,000 inhabitants.
When the toltecs invaded Chichen Itza about 1000 A.D. they brought with them human sacrifice, and a military discipline not known to the Maya. They Maya-Toltec built the nortern-most structures of Chichen Itza, most notably the temple of Kukulkan and the temple of the warriors.
Chichén is a mix of styles, Toltec and Maya. The mayor structures within walking distance of each other and what you ‘All be seeing is the city’s ceremonial center.
At Chichen Itza, the Maya civilization reached its pinnacle. Art, astronomy, medicine, agriculture, architecture — they all flourished here.
The Maya understood the concept of the space between zero and one. They used binary numbers that are used today in computing. Their calendar was more accurate than ours today, by not requiring a leap year to make up for adjustments.
They knew of penicillin 199 years before we rediscovered it. Also, their astronomical calculations allowed term to come up with a theoretical “True North”, this enabling them to create effects such as that of the descending snake during the Equinox. The major structures include the Castillo, or Temple of Kukulcan; the Nunnery Complex; the Caracol, which was the center for astronomy; the Temple of the Warriors, with its magnificent colonnade of carved stelae; the ball-court and Temple of the Jaguar; and the marketplace.
Two cenotes, or natural wells, were the primary reason the city was situated at this location. One provided water for the people and the crops; the other was the sacrificial well, where animal and often human victims were tossed into the dark waters in rituals of purification, celebration and renewal. The Castillo is perhaps the best-known pyramid in the entire Maya civilization.
Exquisitely proportioned, every aspect of its architecture had religious meaning as well as functional purpose. Less well-known is the fact that the Castillo as it is seen today sits atop an earlier structure; and that a steep, dark stairway inside the building takes visitors to a secret chamber, where the brilliant red Throne of the Jaguar scowls at those brave enough to intrude on this powerfully sacred site.
Everywhere at Chichen Itza one encounters strong, silent testimony to the power and achievements of this remarkable civilization. The reflecting basins at the Caracol, each sculpted with a god-figure, allowed Maya astronomers to chart the positions and movements of the planets and stars.
The magnificent carvings on the walls of the ball-court tell the grisly yet enthralling story of the ritual version of the Maya game of Pok-ta-Pok, and portray the losing captain being decapitated in the spring renewal ritual.
The Temple of the Warriors celebrates the battlefield exploits of this mighty race, and pays hall of fame-like homage to its greatest fighters. Everywhere the carvings portray the supreme jaguar and feathered serpent gods, the morning star Venus, and the enigmatic lord Kukulcan.