20 April 2023

What is Chichen Itza? – Discover the characteristics and history of Chichén Itzá

By Donald

In Mexico we can find an archaeological site declared by the Unesco as a World Heritage Site and which is the heart of the ancient Mayan empire. We talk about the great Chichen Itza, one of the Seven Wonders of the modern World, located in the heart of the Yucatan jungle. Surrounded by mystery and magic, in archeology it is one of the most important findings. It was once an incredible city with majestic buildings that spoke for themselves of the great empire that lived there.

What is Chichen Itza?

It was a big ceremony center, built and improved as it was being occupied by different settlers. In his time it was city ​​more powerful and emblematic of the peninsula and for more than a thousand years, the main cultural, religious and political center Empire. At present it is one of the most relevant archaeological sites located in Mexico. But what does Chichén Itzá mean?

His name has the following meanings:

  • “chi”: it’s mouth.
  • “Che’en”: translates as fine.
  • “itz”: He is a sorcerer or a magician.
  • “ha”: water.

Therefore, it is concluded that the translation is “The mouth of the well of the magician or of the sorcerers”. In the language of the Yucatecan Mayan civilization, it means “’Mouth of the well of the Itzaes”. The name alludes to the Sacred Cenote, which is located near the structure. They were of great importance to Mayan society, since they represented a portal between the earthly and the underworld and a source of vital water for the survival of their people. Chichén Itzá has various buildings and sculpturesas they are:

  • The Pyramid or Temple of Kukulkan, its construction is closely related to the Mayan calendar.
  • Ball Game Court, the largest and oldest.
  • Sacred Cenote of Chichen Itza.
  • Temple of the Eagles and the Jaguars.
  • Sculptures of the god Chaac.
  • House of the Nuns.
  • Heads of the Feathered Serpent (Quetzalcóatl or Kukulcán).
  • Platform of skulls.
  • The Thousand Columns.
  • El Caracol Observatory.
  • Temple of the Warriors.

The city was finally abandoned in the middle of 1250 AD. c., for reasons that are not yet fully clarified. But, his greatness would remain in history for thousands of years, it was so important that after so many years people still visit him for worship and pilgrimage. Even in the historical records it is mentioned that Francisco Montejo considered building the capital of Mérida in the territory of Chichén Itzá (1540 AD).

What are the characteristics of Chichén Itzá?

  • It was a ceremonial, cultural and religious center.
  • It has various buildings, (the Temple of Kukulkan or the observatory).
  • The constructions had very elaborate details and were painted with great delicacy.
  • It covered up to 25 km².
  • At present it extends for 15 km².
  • It has four stairs and 365 steps, (each step is a representation of the Mayan calendar).
  • It has an acoustic effect in front of one of the scalars (sound of the Quetzal).
  • The inhabitants worshiped Chaac, the god of rain, and Kukulkan.
  • It has several freshwater cenotes.
  • It is a World Heritage Site declared by UNESCO.
  • It contains the largest and oldest ball game in Mesoamerica.
  • The heads of the enemies were nailed to the Tzompantli.

Where is Chichen Itza located?

This legendary Mayan city is located in the southeast of the country, more than 100 km from the coast. Approximately to 2.5 km from Piste and 120 km from Meridafollowing the road to Cancun, in the north-central Yucatan Peninsula, in the Tulum municipality (Mexico). Tourists who want to visit this magnificent construction can do so by staying in Yucatan, Cancun or Playa del Carmen.

What culture is Chichén Itzá from?

In its beginnings, the domain and culture of the region was in charge of the Itzáes, believed to be Chontal or Putun Maya, in the mid-9th century AD. C. However, the city suffered an invasion by the toltec warriors in the 10th century. With this civilization came new cultural elements, in which the god of Mayan mythology presided, Kukulkan. This god represents Quetzalcóatl, god of the Toltec culture.

These new settlers of Chichén Itzá They were inspired by the Toltec culture to make various buildings. One of the main examples of them is the great pyramid in honor of the Kukulkan serpent, the Temple of the Warriors and the El Caracol Observatory. Thus concluding that the culture is inspired by the Mayans and Toltecs. They had extensive knowledge of:

  • Acoustics
  • Geometry
  • Math
  • Astronomy

The knowledge they possessed about these areas was key in the architecture form of the place. Since the Temple is in a perfect location for Kukulkan descends during the equinoxes.

What civilization was Chichén Itzá?

Its inhabitants were mayans, who were present in the regions of Belize, Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala and mainly Mexico. The Mayans were an impressive civilization, noted for their extensive contributions. In addition to its magnificent forms of construction inspired by its mythology and based on its mathematical and astronomical knowledge.

The empire elite, was constituted like many others around the world. Power passed from the highest ruler to the eldest son in succession to the throne, however, if this heir was not yet of ruling age, the mothers came to power as regents. However, the forms of government varied from one area to another, generally, there was a tribe leader up to the King of Kings (Kalomt’e).

The art of the Mayas was made mainly in materials of Long duration as:

  • Jade
  • Obsidian
  • Ceramics
  • limestone
  • Wood

The Mayan chiefs also knew read and write, so they developed the glyphic writing most advanced of pre-Columbian America. Let us remember that this type of writing was also used by the Hittites and Egyptians, and it consisted of simple figures and symbols. Thanks to this writing, more is known today about this great civilization, despite the fact that many books were damaged by the Spanish conquerors. In addition, one of his greatest contributions to science was the introduction of the zero “0” and the Mayan calendar.

On the other hand, it is known that the Mayans performed human sacrifices as part of their religion. Therefore, it is believed that this was also one of the uses of the sacred Cenote, however, it has not been clarified if the cenotes were also a kind of Mayan cemetery, since bones of very variable ages have been found and a large number of Offerings.

Finally, in the 16th century, the Spanish they conquered Mesoamerica and after many hard battles, the great empire fell. The last Mayan city perished in 1697.

How big is Chichen Itza?

The city was one of the largest in Mexico, reaching up to 25 km² and housing from 50,000 thousand to 100,000 inhabitants. In the It currently occupies 15 km².

Detailing the measurements of some structures we have the following:

  • The base of the pyramid It covers 60 meters wide on each side and the height is 24 meters.
  • The main cultural and administrative areas, extended by 6 km², (areas of the elite). In the spaces around the large constructions there were palapas where the common inhabitants lived.
  • The ball game court It measures 30 meters wide by 120 meters long.
  • Sacred Cenote, its diameter is 60 meters, the depth is estimated at 13 meters with about four more meters of mud. The volume of water is around 23,000 cubic meters.

When was Chichén Itzá built?

The years in which construction began vary depending on the author, what is known precisely is that the period in which he believes it was built is located in the Late Classic or Early Postclassic Mesoamerican. Some consider the years 600-750 AD, others locate the beginning in the years 800-1100 AD. c.

Its construction was carried out to worship the god kukulkan, the main deity of Chichén Itzá, represented as a snake, it was made almost entirely with limestone that abounds in the Mexican jungle. This legendary city is still shrouded in mystery, since even in our times building such a complex building would be difficult.

Why is Chichén Itzá a wonder of the world?

His greatness led millions of voters around the world to choose Chichén Itzá as one of the seven wonders of the modern world, it obtained more than 100 million votes. Thanks to this initiative, since 1988 It was recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site and the July 7, 2007the Temple of Kukulkan became one of the wonders of the modern world.

Undoubtedly, this construction of the Mayan civilization is one of the most beautiful, impressive and best preserved In America. represents the power and knowledge Mayan in all its splendor. And despite the fact that many years have passed since its discovery, this magnificent architecture still holds secrets in each of its pieces that fascinate archaeologists and researchers.

What is Chichén Itzá like inside?

The main structures that make up the archaeological site are iconic and show a very advanced architecture for its time. They are the following:

Kukulkan Castle or Pyramid

It is the main element in the city. The way it was built makes it clear that the Maya had excellent engineers and extensive knowledge in astronomy, mathematics and geometry. In different places of Chichén Itzá there are snake heads that represent Kukulcán, some of the most emblematic are those that are at the end of the main staircase of the castle. Explorations carried out in 1930, obtained as a result that there was a smaller pyramid with a staircase inside it.

Sacred Cenote

Although it is a natural formation of the earth, these were of vital importance, since the gods were worshiped there and rituals were carried out, such as sacrifices.

Temple of the warriors:

Built in the year 1200 AD. C. Contains the chac mool, a sculpture used in rituals.

the thousand columns

As the name implies, they are multiple columns that are believed to have been a large market. It covered 1.8 hectares.

ball game court

It has two rings where the ball had to pass and nearby, there were places or “boxes” where spectators could be located. The exact rules of the matches are not known. However, experts in anthropology, in their most recent discoveries, found a stone marker or disc with hieroglyphs used in the games, which they baptized as “Disco of the Players of the Ball”. It has the following measures:

  • Diameter: 32 cm.
  • Thickness: almost 10 cm.
  • Weight: 40 kilograms.

El Caracol Observatory

Due to its structure, it is thought that it was for observe Venus and other stars in the sky. However, they did not use any apparatus. It was built at late classical period and it received that name from the Spaniards who arrived and saw that inside it there was a spiral-shaped staircase.

Church: It is a small building located next to “The nuns”, It has a single door and a single room.

Platform of the skulls or Tzompantli: there the skulls were placed vertically, unlike Tenochtitlan, where they are horizontal.

It should be noted that from about 1000 years ago to the present, the solar phenomenon that occurs during the equinox (March 21 in the spring – September 22 in the fall), on the castle staircase. The belief is that when the figures of light and shadow it is because the feathered serpent has descended to fertilize mother earth. When this event occurs, thirteen figures of shadows and three of light can be counted, which is a perfect solar measurement in the Mayan calendar. Currently, the magnificent architecture, history, magic and the night show “The Night of the Mayas” are the reasons why Chichén Itzá continues to be highly visited.