The Mexican State of ‘Yucatan’ features one of the most famous archeological sites in the Latin America, known as ‘Chichen Itza’. The city of ‘Chichen Itza’ was one of the most important cities of the ancient Mayan dynasty that thrived in the Yucatan Peninsula for more than 500 years. The city was constructed when the Mayan dynasty was at the apex of its reign & it served as the economic powerhouse of the northern Maya lowlands gaining a stronghold over the huge area of northern as well as central Yucatan.
Apart from its commercial importance, ‘Chichen Itza’ was a highly venerated place for Mayans & is often referred as one of the most important examples of the fusion of ‘Maya-Toltec’ civilization in Central America. ‘Chichen Itza’ exhibits myriad buildings constructed using many different architectural styles ranging from the architectural style of Central Mexico to the Puuc & Chenes styles of Northern lowlands. This architectural diversity is often associated with the diverse population that inhabited this part of the Mayan dynasty throughout its history.
This incredible site was designated as the ‘World Heritage Site’ in 1988 by UNESCO & in 2007, it received another glorious honor when one of its monuments called ‘Kukulkan Pyramid’, famously known as ‘El Castillo’ was elected as one of the ‘New Seven Wonders’ of the world!
HISTORY IN BRIEF:-
‘Chichen Itza’ served as the major urban center of the Maya empire from the ‘Late Classic’ (AD 600 –AD 900) period till the early phase of the ‘Post Classic’ (AD 900–AD 1200) era. Its initial development was accomplished between 750 & 900 AD, whereas, the later development was done after 900 AD.
‘Chichen Itza’ had started to evolve as the dominating regional capital of the Northern Maya lowland at the end of the 6th century. Several important monuments such as ‘Akab Dzib’, ‘Temples of Deer’, ‘Chichen Chob’ etc. which were constructed between 6th & 10th centuries, boasts the characteristic Maya style architecture, which was more popular in the northern & southern areas of Puuc Hills.
The migration of ‘Toltec warriors’ from the Mexican plateau around the 10th century, saw the major revolution in the Mayan tradition in ‘Chichen Itza’. A new style blending Maya & Toltec traditions was developed that thrived till the 1250 AD, after which, the city was conquered by ‘Mayapan’ dynasty. Few archeological evidences depict that the city was sacked & raided on few occasions. Several important buildings in ‘Chichen Itza’ such as, ‘El Castillo’, the ‘Great Ball Court’, ‘Tzompantil’ or the skull wall etc. were constructed using the fusion of ‘Maya-Toltec’ architecture.
The thriving city of ‘Chichen Itza’ saw the rapid decline after 1440 AD due to unclear reasons & eventually, in the early 16th century, ‘Chichen Itza’ was nailed by Spanish Conquistadors.
‘Chichen Itza’ houses myriad monuments built using several types of architecture. The ‘Puuc Style’ structure boasts the basic Mayan style of architecture & is concentrated more in the ‘Old Chichen’ area. The city houses a multitude of buildings which include vastly famous monuments such as, El Castillo, the Great Ball court, Temple of the Warriors, Group of thousand columns, El Mercado, Casa Colorada, El Caracol, Akab Dzib & many more.
‘El Castillo’ or the ‘Temple of Kukulkan’ is the most famous structure in the ‘Chichen Itza’. ‘El Castillo’ is basically a mammoth step pyramid which boasts the supremacy of Maya’s proficiency in the field of astronomy as well as the physics. The temple has 91 steps on each of the four sides, which, including one step on top, constitute 365 steps corresponding one for every day of the year. On the ‘Spring’ & ‘Autumn’ equinox, in the afternoon, the northwest corner of the temple casts a series of triangular shadows that appears like a serpent squirming down the stairs. In 2007, El Castillo was declared as the ‘New Seven Wonders’ of the world.
The ‘Great ball court’ situated to the north-west of the Castillo is one of the most impressive ball courts of ancient ‘Mesoamerica’. At one of the ends of the court, the ‘Temple of the Bearded man’ is located flaunting the bas reliefs on its inner walls. The ‘Temples of Jaguar’ are located near the eastern wall of the court. The ‘Upper temple’ boasts the large carved columns paired with a large mural whereas, the ‘lower temple’ boasts the bas-relief carvings on its inner walls. Archeologists have explored in all thirteen ball courts in ‘Chichen Itza’.
‘Temple of the Warriors’ is another notable structure in ‘Chichen Itza’. The complex of the temple consists of a huge stepped pyramid surrounded by rows of carved columns that represent the warriors. The top of the pyramid is occupied by a ‘Chac Mool’. The series of exposed columns forms a ‘group of thousand columns’ which, as per the studies, would have supported a huge roof system when the city was inhabited. The columns are divided into three distinct groupings – south, northeast & west. Most of the columns are adorned with the bas reliefs of people, soldiers, animals, gods & serpents.
‘Chichen Itza’ also houses other notable structures like ‘Las Monjas’ which was one of the oldest structures in the city that served as a government palace, a round observatory based on a massive square podium named as ‘El Caracol’ & ‘Akab Dzib’ which was a home of the administrator of ‘Chichen Itza’. All these structures were built in the early phase of the city which ranges from the Late to the Terminal classic period.
‘Cenote Sagardo’ is one of the most amazing places found in ‘Chichen Itza’ which was venerated as a sacred place of pilgrimage by the ancient Maya people. The cenote is actually a sinkhole filled with water, which was created due to the unique limestone plain found in the Yucatan peninsula. The cenotes were the only sources of water for people in ‘Chichen Itza’. ‘Cenote Sagardo’ was the most famous of all & as per the archeological sources, human sacrifices used to conduct here during the time of draughts. Several ancient jewels made up of gold, carved jade, shell etc. were removed from the bottom of the cenote along with human skeletons.
The mysterious world of ‘Chichen Itza’ is visited every year by more than 1.2 millions of tourists on an average. This marvelous sacred city of Maya kingdom is the second most visited archeological site in Mexico & has gathered several accolades from around the world for its stupendous exhibition of cultural fusion of Maya-Toltec traditions!