Chichén Itzá is one of the most important archaeological sites in Mexico, related to Mayan and Toltecs culture. Great temples, steep pyramids and colonnades erected in this place give us incredible image of this former empire.
The location of the city in the hot, dry area of the Yucatan peninsula was possible due to two wells called cenotes. One of them was a water tank, while the second larger, called Cenote Sagrado – holy well, which was used for ritual purposes. It was the sacred place of the god of the rain – Chaca. In this well, not only valuable objects were sacrificed but people as well.
In addition to the bloody rituals like those presented in Apocalypto – directed by Mel Gibson, the Mayans also had a perfect knowledge of mathematics and astronomy, which can be proved by the largest structure – the pyramid of Kukulkan (which means “feathered snake”), called El Castillo. In fact, this temple is basically built on the basis of Mayan calendar. 365 steps lead to its top, which correspond to the number of days a year. The stairs divide each of the 9 levels of structure into 2 parts, which represents 18 months of the Mayan calendar. What’s more, during the spring and autumn equinox, on the northern corner of the temple it’s possible to see the shadow of a serpent. Observing this phenomenon at that time is virtually impossible because of the siege of tourists. The pyramid is also famous for excellent acoustics, a whisper from its peak is heard far away.
The building of el Caracol also draws attention. It has characteristic spiral stairs. The building housed an astronomical observatory, in which the Mayans conducted long observations. They’re able to determine the exact point of sunset during the summer solstice.
Right behind the Kukulkan Pyramid is the Templo de los Guerreros – the Temple of Warriors. This temple was the site of the most bloody rituals in which the priests cut the victims’ breasts and removed their beating hearts which were sacrificed to the gods.
At the top you can see a symbol of these events – the fearsome character of Chac Mool – the Totltecs’ god, holding a vessel full with hearts of the victims.
Near the temple is the Grupo de las Mil Columnas – The Group of Thousands Columns, which in fact are around 360. It used to be a market place with a playground and a steam bath.
The second terrifying place, the reminiscent of the times of bloody rites, is Tzompantli – Skull Platform. Its walls are decorated with sculptures of skulls and eagles ripping human breasts.
In the main square of Chichen Itza, there’s also a temple dedicated to the planet – Venus. However, the tough Mayan reality leaves no illusions, this building wasn’t dedicated to the goddess of love, but to the rituals of blood.
Next to the Temple of Venus is the largest preserved ground to play Pelota. The players involved in this game were supposed to put the ball in baskets located 7 meters above the ground. It was a difficult task because during the game you could only use elbows, hips and shoulders. Those who weren’t dedicated to the game were sacrificed. Reliefs on the walls of the ground show the heads of those who lost, certainly it was good motivation. Like the Kukulkan Pyramid, the field is characterized by excellent acoustics conditions, the voice is heard from a distance of 135 meters.
The site in Chichen Itza, due to its architecture and bloody history is one of the most extraordinary and fascinating places in Mexico. Well-designed Mayan and Toltecs structures give an idea of the size of the former empire and its expertise in astronomy and construction. That’s why Chichen Itza was proclaimed one of the 7 Wonders of the World.