Chichén Itzá (in Mayan: Boca-del-pozo (chichén) de los brujos-de-agua (Itzá)) is one of the main archaeological sites of the Yucatan Peninsula, in Mexico. It is located in the municipality of Tinum, in the state of Yucatán. It consisted of a city or a ceremonial center, which went through various constructive eras and influences of the different peoples that occupied it and that promoted it from its foundation. Important and renowned vestige of the Mayan civilization, the main buildings that last there correspond to the period called late classic or early post classic (800-1100 AD).
It was inscribed on the list of World Heritage by UNESCO in 1988.
The 7 of July of 2007, the Temple of Kukulcan, located at Chichén Itzá, was recognized as one of the new Seven Wonders of the modern world, by a private initiative without the support of UNESCO, but with the recognition of millions of voters around of the world.
The monumental architecture that has reached our days, which is emblematic of the site, has a clear Toltec influence. The god who presides over the site, according to Mayan mythology, is Kukulkan, a Mayan representation of Quetzalcoatl, god taken from the pantheon of Toltec culture.
In the Mayan language, Chichen Itza means "mouth of the well of the Itza", referring to the Sacred Cenote, the great natural well that the inhabitants of the region considered one of the main entrances to the underworld, headquarters of important gods, such as those of the rain. In addition, the name of the site alludes to the Itzaes, powerful mythical-historical lords of the city during the time of its growth and apogee.
Its name derives from the Mayan words chi 'mouth', che'en 'well', itz 'magician or sorcerer' and ha 'water'. By joining the words you get 'the mouth of the water sorcerer's well' or 'on the edge of the water sorcerers well'. Either the huasteco ch'iich'en 'in the state/appearance of a bird', or the huasteco itzam 'snake', 'feathered serpent'.
Chichen Itza was founded around 300 AD, during "the first lower or lower descent of the east" referred to by the chronicles, by the Chanes of Bacalar (which were later called Itza and later cocomes).
Having established the clans the capital of his government in Chichen Itza at the appointed time, from Bacalar, they continued their journey from east to west in the Yucatan peninsula, after which they also founded other important cities such as Ek Balam, Izamal, Motul, T'Hó, the current Mérida de Yucatán, and Champotón.
Already towards the end of the late classical period, in the ninth century, Chichen became one of the most important political centers of the Mayab lands. By the beginning of the postclassic period (from 900 to 1500), the city had established itself as the main center of power in the Yucatecan peninsula.
Evolution of the site
According to the available evidence, it is possible that many of the city's main buildings have been destroyed and rebuilt later. It can be said that the decline of Chichen Itza occurred in a context of violence, which led to the loss of the Chichen Itza hegemony in the Mayab.
The Mayapán League was formed, which was a union of priestly houses of the peninsula, among which the most important were Uxmal, Mayapán and Chichen Itza. However, this league was destroyed by a disagreement between the caciques (halach uinik) of the participants that led to a declaration of war by one of them, Hunac Ceel, who proclaimed himself halach uinik of Mayapán. This caused the rupture with the Itza, who lost the conflict and eventually had to flee in the year 1194 AD. C. and take refuge in Petén, where they had originally come from almost ten centuries ago.
Unlike the beginning, when Chichen was founded, that the Mayans from the East sought peace and the development of their people by establishing themselves in the Mayab (in the Mayan language: more 'no', yab 'much, many', the place for a few, 'for not many' - a name that the region had all before the arrival of the Spaniards -, at the end, 1000 years later, the region itself had become a place of struggles and struggles, the elite were made up of warriors, priests and merchants who ruled Chichen Itza. They had introduced the cult of the god Kukulcan. He had built impressive constructions with slopes and vertical walls and representations of the bird-snake god that came from outside. In the process of decline, militarism was the undoubted foundation of this culture. This is evident in the monument called Platform of Skulls, where they exhibited, stuck in stakes, the skulls of hundreds of enemies.
Chichen Itza retained its reputation as a sacred site at the time of the conquest, and they still went to the ancient capital of the Mayan pilgrim Itzaes to perform rituals in the Sacred Cenote, in the Castle and the Osario. Because of the importance of Chichen Itza, Francisco de Montejo came to consider establishing the capital of the province of Yucatan, although the idea did not prosper. The chroniclers of the time, like Fray Diego de Landa, were impressed by the dimensions of Chichen Itza and its well-preserved buildings.
The Chichén Itzá buildings show a large number of architectural and iconographic elements that some historians have wanted to call Mexicanized. The truth is that the influence of cultures from the Mexican highlands is visible, and the mixture with the Puuc style, coming from the upper part of the peninsula, from classical Mayan architecture. The presence of these elements from highland cultures was conceived until a few years ago as a product of a massive migration or conquest of the Mayan city by Toltec groups. However, more recent studies they suggest that they may have been the cultural expression of a very widespread and prestigious political system during the early postclassic period throughout Mesoamerica. Over the years, humanity has served us to carry out architectural knowledge, since it has mathematical knowledge to carry out large-scale constructions
The Castle and the descent of Kukulcán
The multiple and monumental buildings of the Chichén Itzá esplanade are chaired by the Pyramid of Kukulcán, called by many "the Castle", one of the paradigmatic buildings of Mayan architecture. It is a four-sided pyramid that culminates in a rectangular temple. It sits on a rectangular platform 55.5 meters wide and has a height of 24 meters. Each side of the pyramid has a large staircase, 91 steps per side and one more leading to the upper temple, giving 365 steps, one per day of the year. Stone balustrades flank each staircase, and at the base of the northern staircase two colossal feathered serpent heads, effigies of the god Kukulcan, sit. It is on these steps, and very particularly in their parapets or balustrades, where they project around the equinoctial day the shadows of the edges of the superimposed platforms or bases that make up the great building, thus configuring the image of the snake's body, which, as the hours go by, seems to move down and ending in the mentioned stone head located at the lower base of the staircase.
It is a common opinion that this play of light and shadow represents the "descent" of Kukulcán to the earth, as the Mayans wanted to symbolize the superior mandate to go to the agricultural work, before the imminence of the arrival of the rains, at the end of the March in which the sowing season of the cornfield in the region begins. It has also been proposed that the phenomenon reflects the relationship between astronomical knowledge, architecture and agricultural work.
However, the astronomical orientations, which evidently had both the ritual meaning and the practical utility related to the agricultural cycle, are embodied in many buildings, both in Chichen Itza and elsewhere. has also been shown that the orientations that register the astronomical equinoxes are practically non-existent in Mayan architecture and that the phenomenon of Chichen Itza Castle can be observed for several weeks, without the small changes allowing the equinoxes to be determined or any other date, so it is unlikely that it was planned by the Maya.
It is an open-air cenote of 60 m in diameter, with vertical walls approximately 15 m from the level of access to the water surface and 13 m deep, which is approximately the first groundwater in that area of the Yucatan Peninsula.
The sacred cenote of Chichen Itza was considered one of the most important pilgrimage sites of the Mayan culture, and people from very distant places in Central America, such as Piedras Negras, were pilgrimage.
At the beginning of the 20th century d. C. an American consul, Edward Herbert Thompson (1857-1935), learned of legends describing the sacrifice of richly dressed maidens in the cenote, so he bought the property where he is located, dredged the cenote and extracted numerous objects that he sent to his country, selling them, mainly to the Peabody Museum in Massachusetts.
In 1926, the Mexican Government expropriated the land where the then "Hacienda Chichén" was located and sued Thompson, accusing him of having appropriated the estate illegally. The litigation lasted until 1945, the year in which the Supreme Court of Justice of the Nation ruled in favor of the American, ruling that Thompson had bought the property legally and in the absence of laws to protect the heritage, the American had the right to explore and export what was found in the cenote of your property. Although the archaeologist had died in 1935, the property was returned to his heirs. Eventually, after various efforts of the Mexican Government, a good amount of the invaluable archeological pieces returned to Mexico, in 1970 and 2008, which are protected in various Mexican museums.
Despite the legal aspect, many experts at the time - and now - consider that Thompson acted with intent and a total lack of ethics, plundering the cenote.
Currently, the ancient romantic conception of the sacrifice of maidens in the sacred cenote has been overcome with recent osteo-archaeological and epigraphic research. In reality the sacrifices in the sacred cenote were mostly of children, who were dressed in the image of the twin gods and were sacrificed in ceremonies linked to the Mayan myth of creation. This would explain the Mayan blue silt from the bottom of the cenote (color that in the Mayan worldview represented the sacred) and the reason why about 80% of the bones found in the sacred cenote are children.
The Great Ball Game
The Great Ball Game in Chichen Itza shows the arrival and development of the Itzaes, the evolution of religious ideas, and the style called "Maya Yucateco" because it is mixed with elements of the original Puuc area. This style combines architecture, sculpture, and painting based on militarism and the cult of Kukulkan, which began to spread to the Mayan region in the classical period, producing a revival of culture and society in the Yucatan lands.
The Jaguar Temple in Chichen Itza was built between 1000 and 1150. It takes its name from a sequence of jaguars located on the front of the structure, consists of different layers that are intricately sculpted and show different types of images. Two giant feathered snakes formed the columns in the entrance hall, while the interior walls were richly decorated in stone.
South Temple of the Ball Game
The Southern Temple of the Ball Game in Chichen Itza is unfortunately very destroyed, probably due to its large dimensions. It had pilasters to support the roof that served to protect the high hierarchy of the sun and rainy days.
Temple of the Bearded Man
The Temple of the Bearded Man is perhaps the best preserved of the buildings surrounding the Great Ball Game, the Temple is named after a strange bearded man who heads the scene. It is located on a wall of three stepped bodies along with the main staircase that sits on a platform.
Temple of the Eagles and Jaguars
The Temple of the Eagles and Jaguars got its name from reliefs that show these animals devouring human hearts, this Temple is the smallest of the set of structures that form "The Great Plane", which includes: the Temple of Kukulkan, the Temple of Venus and Great ball game.
Temple of Venus
The Temple of Venus in Chichen Itza receives its name because there are bas-relief representations of the planet Venus on its outer panels in the form of Mayan Years next to a half flower with sticks in the petals. There is also the pop or braided pop symbol that means lordship and power. The Temple of Venus is also known as the Tomb of Chacmol because its sculpture was found inside.
The Sacred Cenote in Chichen Itza is there because the Mayan Peninsula has most of its underground water currents, mainly due to the limestone surface that quickly absorbs rainwater. The Maya called these natural wells ts'onot, a word that became Spanish and led to Cenote.
Temple of the Tables
Called Temple of the Tables due to the superimposed levels that give the appearance of plateaus, this temple built next to the one of the Warriors, is a small pyramid of four levels that previously culminated with a temple with two columns of snakes.
Temple of the Warriors
The Temple of the Warriors in Chichen Itza was built around the year 1200 and is one of the most beautiful and best preserved buildings on this site. Chichen Itza has dozens of buildings, but when people think of this site, they always think of the Castle, the Sacred Cenote, the Great Ball Game and, of course, the Temple of the Warriors.
Group of the Thousand Columns
The Group of the Thousand Columns in Chichen Itza is actually a temple, a very beautiful and impressive structure connected to the Temple of the Warriors that receives its name because it seems to have many columns, but in reality, there are only about 200 columns of them.
Pillars of the North
The Pillars of the North in Chichen Itza are part of the main set of columns that are located on the side of the Temple of the Warriors. They are decorated on their four faces with reliefs of warriors, priests and prisoners, as well as squares with the effigy of the Serpent Bird Man or Kukulkan.
The Chichen Itza Ossuary is also known as the tomb of the great priest. This structure measures more than 10 meters high and is formed by nine stepped bodies very similar to El Castillo, which seems to be a replica, with the difference of having less height and a frieze covered with mythological reliefs decorated in its corners with the effigy of the Chaac god similar to those found in the Temple of the Warriors and the Temple of Venus.
Platform of the Tombs
The Platform of the Tombs in Chichen Itza, is also known as 3C4 and has three chambers containing human remains, so it got its name commonly known. In the first of the cameras, there were two skeletons in very poor condition belonging to male individuals, and some fragmented vessels. In the second chamber, two other damaged male skeletons were found, in addition to two broken vessels, two jade objects, a copper rattle, a rock crystal and many shell ornaments that make archaeologists believe they had been part of a mask.
The Venus Platform is very similar to the Temple of Venus in the Great Square where the Kukulkan Pyramid is located. The round platform contained an offering box and a small slab pavement. The function of both was to serve as platforms for ceremonies, rites or dances.
Chichanchob (Red House)
This building is the largest and best preserved of the four buildings surrounding the square or the main plain. Chichanchob translates as "small holes" of the Maya chi'ich'ichan, which means "small", and ch'ob, "hole", maybe due to the small holes in its raised crest. It is also commonly known as Casa Colorada, due to a strip painted red inside the lobby or the first bay.
House of the Deer
The Deer House in Chichen Itza is already much damaged, but it has architectural guidelines very similar to those of Chichanchob. It is on a platform or basement with rounded corners and a smooth facade, and with a frieze between moldings and ridges in the front without any decoration. It is part of a square that contains Chichanchob, and probably a residential complex associated with the Osario.
The Chichen Itza Observatory, also known as the Caracol, is a round structure very similar to those that exist in other parts of Mesoamerica.
It has some windows at the top from which you could see the equinoxes, sunsets, solstices, positions of Venus and other stars, and based on the observation they were guided for many of the decisions and actions taken by the ruling class.
Complex of the Nuns
The Building of the Nuns in Chichen Itza has its front towards the north and consists of three buildings: The Nuns, the East and Southeast wings, which correspond to several overlapping construction periods.
When the Chichén Itzá Church was discovered for the first time, this building was notable for its good state of preservation and the richness and beauty of its ornaments. The Church is a small building next to Las Monjas with a single chamber and an access door, similar to a rectangular chapel, from its name changed to this.
The Tzompantli, or Skull Platform (Platform of Skulls), shows a clear cultural influence of the central plateau of Mexico. Unlike the Tzompantli of the highlands, however, the skulls were impaled vertically instead of horizontal as in Tenochtitlan.
The Market is a building that has the shape of a T. On the front, a platform 80 meters long and 15 meters wide is composed of a row of pillars. The porch is roofed with a vault and an access in the center of the south wall leads to a square courtyard that is surrounded by columns (Marquina, 1964). Adjacent to the wall behind the porch are two sidewalks decorated with feathered snakes, and the slope with a procession of warriors. This representation shows a central character who has a feathered snake behind his body. He is a warrior who wears an eagle mask-shaped headdress, earmuff in the form of a tubular bead, circular pectoral, arm protector, two spears in the left hand, skirt, knee brace and sandal. This character is trampling two captives wearing feathered headdresses, arm guards, anklets and sandals. On both sides of this main individual there is a procession of prisoners tied by ropes in the hands.
Foreign writers stories
In the 16th century AD C. the Spanish conqueror Francisco de Montejo and the Franciscan Diego de Landa made the first visits of the Europeans to the area and gave a detailed account of the existence of the city.
In 1840 the American John Lloyd Stephens, in the company of the English artist Frederick Catherwood, visited the archeological zone of Chichen Itza. At that time he was inside the hacienda of the same name that belonged to Juan Sosa. In 1894, Edward Herbert Thompson acquired the Hacienda de Chichén-Itzá and conducted studies and explorations in the area, especially within the sacred cenote. During these studies found many objects were improperly sent the Peabody Museum of Archeology and Ethnology of Harvard University, although, later, and due to the intervention of the Mexican Government, some of the objects were returned. When Thompson died in 1935 the property passed to his heirs, although the control and jurisdiction, as well as the systematic exploration and maintenance of the extensive archaeological site is in charge, by law, of the National Institute of Anthropology and History, a decentralized body of the Mexican federal government.
In 1860, the French archaeologist Désiré Charnay traveled to Mexico, where he visited and photographed several of the Mayan ruins, including Palenque, Izamal, Chichen Itza, Uxmal, Sisal, Dzitás and Ticul, as well as the cities of Mérida and Campeche. Upon his return to France, he managed to mount an exhibition with the photographs taken in Mexico, which captivated the attention of Parisian society, to the degree that Emperor Napoleon III sponsored in 1863 the edition of his book Cités et ruines americaines, where he described what he learned in his travels and plates of his best photos were published.