This article first appeared in ancient-code.com and is written by Ivan Petricevic
Located in the municipality of Tinum, in the Mexican state of Yucatán is the archaeological site of Chichen Itza, an ancient Maya city. It was one of the largest Mayan cities and was often referred to in later literature as a mythical city. Archaeologists believe that this ancient Mayan city may have had the most diverse population in the ancient Maya. It displays a great variety of architectural styles with researchers believe are because of the diverse population from different cultures that inhabited this ancient city. It is one of the most visited ancient sites in Mexico with over a million tourists traveling to the Yucatan to see the wonders this ancient Maya city displays.
Here we bring you facts about Chichen Itza:
- The actual name “Chichen Itza” means “At the mouth of the well of the Itza.” The itza are believed to have been an ethnic-lineage group.
- The land where the monument of Chichen Itza is located had been privately owned until 29 March 2010, when it was purchased by the state of Yucatán.
- The site was not always named Chichen Itza; the Chilam Balam books indicates another, earlier name for this city.
- Researchers have had a difficult time defining the earlier name of this ancient Maya city; it is represented variously as Uuc Yabnal (“Seven Great House”), Uuc Hab Nal (“Seven Bushy Places”), Uucyabnal(“Seven Great Rulers”) or Uc Abnal (“Seven Lines of Abnal”).
- It is believed that Chichen Itza had a completely different style of government, as it was not governed by an individual ruler but rather by a “multepal” system.
- It was an incredibly powerful economic power in the Maya world, establishing trade routes as far as South America; even though some believe their trade routes even went beyond the American Continent.
- Chichen Itza rose to regional prominence by the end of the Early Classic period, about 600 AD.
- Archaeologists estimate that between 900 AD and 1050 AD, this ancient city expanded and became the regions capital controlling most parts of the Central and Northern Yucatan peninsula.
- The main part of Chchen Itza covered approximately 5 square kilometres; but scholars have found evidence that smaller settlements belonging to the city extend further out.
- The buildings of the city were connected by a dense network of paved causeways, called sacbeob which in translation means white road.
- The Puuc and Chenes styles are two of the construction styles that are located in the Chichen Itza layout; they originate from northern Yucatan.
- Researchers believe that Chichen Itza contributed to the fall of two of their allied cities; Yaxuna and Coba, who were already in decline.
- Hunac Ceel, ruler of Mayapan, conquered Chichen Itza in the 13th century.
- Archaeological evidence suggests that Chichen Itza declined as a regional center by 1250 CE.
- El Castillo or also known as the Temple of Kukulcan; dominates the center of this ancient Maya city.
- El Castillo is a superimposed construction; it was built on top of another, much older temple.
- Archaeologists estimate that the monument that was dedicated to the god Kukulcan was built by the Maya civilization between the 9th and 12th centuries CE.
- Sculptures of plumed serpents run down the sides of the northern balustrade of El castillo; During the Spring and autumn equinoxes sun strikes off the northwest corner of the monument casting a series of triangular shadows against the northwest balustrade; thus creating the illusion of a feathered serpent “crawling” down the pyramid. Millions of tourists gather to watch this phenomena.
- Each of the pyramid’s four sides has 91 steps.
- If you include the temple platform located top as the final “step” you will get a total of 365 steps which are equal to the number of days of the Haab’ year. (The Haab’ was the Maya version of the 365-day calendar known to many of the pre-Columbian cultures of Mesoamerica.)
- The Ancient Maya were great athletes; Archaeologists have discovered thirteen ballcourts for playing the Mesoamerican ballgame in Chichen Itza.
- The Ball court located to the north-west of the Pyramid “El Castillo” It is the largest and best preserved ball court in ancient Mesoamerica.
- Chichen Itza has a platform dedicated to the planet Venus located north of El Castillo.
- One of the most notable structures in Chichen Itza, apart of El Castillo, is a complex of Terminal Classic constructions built in the Puuc architectural style called: Las Monjas. Archaeologists suggest it was an governmental palace.
- The Osario is another Step Pyramid very similar to El Castillo, only smaller in size. At the center of Osario is an opening that leads to a natural cave.
- The temple of the warriors is another amazing construction. The Temple of the Warriors complex includes a large stepped pyramid fronted and flanked by rows of carved columns that depict the Maya warriors.
- El Caracol was one of the most important temples in Chichen Itza and it is one of the most unusual ones.
- Archaeologists believe it served as a proto-observatory with doors and windows aligned to astronomical events, specifically around the path of Venus as it traverses the heavens.
- The Casa Colorada is one of the best preserved buildings at Chichen Itza that contains a Maya date inscribed correlating to 869 AD; making it one of the oldest such dates found in all of Chichen Itza.
- Even though Chichen Itza had collapsed by the time the Spanish Conquistadores arrived, it was not completely abandoned.
Ivan is a freelance writer, editor-in-chief of ancient-code.com, he also writes for EWAO, Share Knowledge, Svemir Online and Ancient Origins.