Chichen Itza – A Great Architectural Maya Site

Posted in North America | April 5, 2010 | 0 Comments


Extending to the north of the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico is the vast pre-Columbian site of Chichen Itza belonging to the Maya settlement. The literal meaning of the name is at the mouth of the well of the Itza. In its time, the city was the prime centre of trade in the northern Maya lowlands.

The archaeological site reveals a different mix of architectural patterns in its superbly made stone edifices. Many of its original buildings are reconstructed making them worth observing. A dense network of 100 cobbled roads called sacbeob takes you to each structure on the site.

Indicating a systematic approach, all structures are categorized into their architectural groups according to styles, each of which is split through the low walls. These groups are he Great North Platform with El Castillo, Temple of Warriors, and the Great Ball Court; The Ossario Group containing the Ossario pyramid and the Temple of Xtoloc; and the Central Group holding the Caracol and Las Monjas. Hey, do not think that these are the only structures, there are many more to the list.

Structures that I Visited

El Castillo (The Castle)

Do not be misled to think that it is a fort, rather it is called the Temple of Kukulkan. The structure is a step pyramid that provides staircases to reach to the temple atop. Its floor is in form of square terraces. This is major attraction that draws many tourists especially on the day of spring and autumn equinox. On these two days when the sun sets and rises, the corner in the west of north staircase displays a shadow in a serpent shape. Precisely, a serpent is called Kukulcan or Quetzalcoatl and so is the name of the temple.

Beneath this temple, another temple exists that holds a statue of Chac Mool and a Jaguar-shaped throne.

Great Ball Court

This is the most imposing and largest ball court in Mesoamerica located to the north-west of the Castillo. There is an array of interlinked serpents on the tip of tall walls, whereas on the floor, the sloping benches with panels of ball players are worth noticing.

Platform of Venus

Situated between el Castillo and Cenote Sagrado, this is devoted to the planet Venus and its interior is decorated with huge stone cones.

Sacbe Number One

Starting a few steps away from the Platform of Venus to the Cenote Sagrado, this is the largest white road in Chichen Itza.

Cenote Sagrado

On this land, there are many natural sinkholes known as cenotes that push ground water upwards. Among all of them, this cenote is quite impressive with steep cliffs. In the past, this was a holy spot where the Maya folks conducted sacrifices to have water when drought stuck the place. This ritual was in form of offerings such as gold, jade, obsidian, shell, wood, cloth, and skeletons of children and men found on excavation.
Temple of the Tables

This is the northernmost structure to the east of El Castillo. The reason behind its name is the array of altars atop the structure supported by small figures of men whose arms are raised.

Group of a Thousand Columns

This is along the south wall of the Temple of Warriors seemed to support a vast roof. The columns are split in three groups: east group in the front of the Temple of Warriors; a north group along the south wall holding pillars and bas-reliefs of soldiers; and a northeast group containing carvings of people, gods, animals, and serpents. The northeast column temple covers a channel that takes the rainwater out to a rejollada, previously a cenote.

Steam Bath

This is an edifice having a waiting gallery, a water bath, and a steam chamber run through the heated stones.
Temple of the Warriors

Herein, a large stepped pyramid is seen with columns of warriors. A stairway takes you to the summit where a Chac Mool temple can be visited.

Ossario

This is the structure with staircases on all its four sides with a temple on the top taking you within the pyramid and to a natural cave underground.

Temple of Xtoloc

This temple is the home of several pilasters inlaid with the sculpts of people, plants, birds, and mythological episodes.

House of the Metates and House of the Mestizas

Located south of the Ossario, these are the two small edifices that are believed to be the residences for VIPs.

Las Monjas

Remarkably made, this is the holder of Terminal Classic buildings of the Puuc architecture. Visit a small temple nicknamed as The Church here for its wonderful masks of the rain god Chaac.

Old Chichen

This is a nickname for the structures at the south of the core site namely, Initial Series Group, the Phallic Temple, the Platform of the Great Turtle, the Temple of the Owls, and the Temple of the Monkeys.

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