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CHICHEN ITZA

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CHICHEN ITZA

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Monumental, complex and mysterious; these are some of the characteristics of Chichén Itzá, a huge city with stone pyramids and buildings, marked by an architectonic boast that shows the geniality and the religious spirit of the Mayan Civilisation.

It is a great city that currently extends over an area of 10 square kilometres, where the great vestiges of a culture that reached advancements unthought-of, especially in astronomy, impose themselves. For these and other characteristics, Chichén Itzá is one of the most impacting archaeological centres in Mexico.

Amongst the main attractions we can cite:

-The Pyramid of Kukulkán: it is one of the maximum expressions of Mayan architecture. It is also known as The Castle and it is the largest and most important construction in Chichén Itzá due to its characteristics.
It is believed to have been built in the year 800 AD, being conceived as a great solar calendar, which may be the reason why there are 91 footsteps on each one of its four sides, which added to the steps of its platform sum up to 365 footsteps, a number coinciding with the days of the solar year.
Besides, it houses 52 panels on each side that represent the 52 years of its cosmic cycle, similar to the Christian calendar; whilst the nine levels of the pyramid would symbolise the nine heavens of the Mayan way of interpreting the heavens.
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The Temple of Kukulkán, the sun god, is on top of the pyramid and can be accessed through a narrow and steep flight of stairs. There are figures of jaguars, a Chac Mool, the gods' messenger, and the throne of the jaguar ostentatiously adorned in its interior.
People gather every year on the north side of Kukulkán during the spring equinox (21st of March), in order to appreciate an amazing spectacle of lights and shades, on which a serpent crawls towards the foot of the pyramid.
This image, according to the Mayas, was the sign of the sun god to sow the fields. As a counterpart, when the serpent ascended along the pyramid during the fall equinox (21st of September), it was then harvest time.

-The Temple of the Warriors: an "army" of sculptures representing armed men rest in this awesome precinct, one of the most beautiful in Maya - Tolteca architecture. It is very close to the pyramid and was built over an ancient Temple of Chac Mool, where a representation of this god, a man sitting with his legs bent and his head leaned that has a recipient for the offerings on his lap, can be appreciated between two huge serpents.
Other historic vestiges are the One Thousand Columns, a cluster of pillars that used to sustain a vault that no longer exists. Each one was carved with images of priests and warriors. Its external walls were decorated with Mayan and Tolteca motifs.

-The Temple of the Jaguars: it is located on the east side of the One Thousand Columns, and the image of the jaguar, a feline that is also represented on an imposing sculpture, stands out on its friezes. Other attractions it keeps are the murals related to the battles between Toltecas and Mayas, equally to the carvings representing the creation of man.

-The Patio of the Ball Game: it was the pitch for a game with religious ends that consisted on introducing a heavy rubber ball through a loop placed high on the side walls. The ball could not fall to the ground for it represented the sun and the heavens. Besides, the partakers were forbidden to touch it with their hands.
It is thought that the game suffered a macabre twist with the arrival of the Toltecas, for since then the losing team were apparently sacrificed. This is the largest and best preserved court amongst those existing in Mexico, being one of the most mysterious and fascinating legacies.

-The Spiral: it is a circular precinct used for astronomic purposes that might have been built in the year 900 AD. A kind of spiral stairs lead to a vantage point, where there are several windows from which the ancient Mayas watched the skies on especial dates in order to perform perfect astronomical calculations.
It is undoubtedly an admirable design that shows the ampleness of knowledge on engineering and astronomic attained by the Mayas. It is located on the southern side of Chichén Itzá.

-The Sacred Cenote: it is a deposit of fresh water that the Mayas regarded as the dwelling of the rain god. For this reason Chichén Itzá became an important pilgrimage centre, which kept its importance as such even after the city was unpopulated.
The cenote is 20 metres deep and has a diameter of 60 metres. Human sacrifices and other offerings took place in it, and innumerable gold and jade objects have been found in its depths, along with human bones, including those of children.
It is located in the northern zone of Chichén Itzá, following the sacred road starting at the plaza.

-The House of the Nuns: it is one of the largest compounds of the classical period of Mayan architecture. It has two storeys and the first one has long galleries with rooms, whilst the second level, which is reached through a flight of stairs decorated with zoomorphic and phytomorphic figures, only has rooms.
In spite of the deterioration suffered by the passing of time, we can still see the beautifully chiselled friezes, the powerful stonewall and the carved columns of its façade.

-Tomb of the Great Priest or the Ossuary: it is an ancient pyramid in which tombs probably belonging to high priests have been found. According to the investigation undertaken in the zone, the platform of the tombs was built in one single period, not having identified constructions prior to it. The second tomb is the most elaborated one of the two it contains, with its threshold showing a couple of solid jambs and a stone lintel standing out.

-The House of the Deer: the image of this animal was found in one of its walls on the inside. It is located over a solid platform that has a flight of stairs leading to the central part of the precinct.

*Likewise, you can visit other buildings, such as the House of the Eagles, besides the singular Azak Dib, also known as the House of Darkness, amongst other samples of the Mayas' architectonic dexterity.

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