Chichén-Itzá - Main Page
Chichén Itzá, Mexico (Latitude 20°40'N |
Chichén-Itzá is the most visited archaeological site in the peninsula of
Yucatan, due to its extraordinary architecture beauty and its geographical
location. It is located 120 km from Merida
(about midway between the towns of Cancun and Merida) in the State of Yucatan, Mexico.
Location of Chichen Itza in Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico
of the ruins of Chichen Itza.
Copyright © 2005 Space Imaging, Inc,
Layout of the ruins of Chichen Itza
Mayan culture, late classic, 11-13th A.D.
The site was developed between the 6th and 14th centuries. The early
inhabitants (A.D. 600-900) were the Itzá, a Maya group. Chichén Itzá seems to
have been abandoned during the 10th century but later resettled around A.D.
1000. The second group of settlers may have been the original Itzá, Toltecs from
Tula (near Mexico City), or a fusion of both groups.
Archaeologists have recognized both Maya and Toltec influences in the
architecture: most believe that the Toltecs influenced the Itzá, but some argue
that the influence was in the other direction.
It was founded in the year 514 of our era by the priest LAKIN CHAN who
was also called Itzamna. This is why their people were called since the
foundation, chanes or itzaes.
The name Chichén Itzá, is derived from the Mayan language: "Chi" - mouth,
"Chen" - well and "Itza" - the tribe that inhabited the area. When the Spaniards arrived to Chichen - Itza, it had been abandoned as a
consequence of the civil war fought with Mayapan. In between 1196 and 1441 the
final collapse of this culture took place in the north of the peninsula.
The conquerors found the buildings of Chichén Itzá, partially in ruins and
their names and real use were unknown; this is why the present names are
El Castillo, Chichen Itza.
© Charnay Désiré, 1860
Cather's drawings of El Castillo
El Castillo (old photo)
About 60% of El Castillo pyramid has been restored almost fully from the decaying condition in
which it was re-discovered by John L. Stephens in 1841 although the eastern and
southern faces are still partially eroded by the forces of time and erosion.
There are no plans to restore these two faces of the pyramid as those that
restored the other portions wish for future generations to see the condition in
which it was originally discovered.
El Caracol (old photo)
Drawings of the Nunnery
Artist's rendering of central Chichen Itza around the year AD
View is from the north with the Castillo Pyramid in the center,
Temple of the Warriors to the east, and a sacbe to the Sacred
Cenote in the
Credits for the following segment:
Chichen Itza is the most impressive and intact ruins of Mayan civilization
that the modern world has. This now popular tourist attraction is located on the
Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico and has fast become the best restored record of the
spiritual, domestic, and agricultural lives of these people. Mayan ruins in
central America, such as Chichen Itza, are remnants of cities that were
abandoned long before Columbus reached the area; yet this culture has influenced
many areas of architecture, art, and astronomy, that live on even in our modern
The Mayan people are most famous for their brilliant and advanced
astronomical knowledge and their resiliency. Stone remnants of their
civilization are currently being preserved at various sites in Mexico; in Tilkal,
Guatemala; in Altun Ha, Belize; and in Copan, Honduras. Mayan civilization
spread from their origin on the Yucatan Peninsula to the rain forests of Mexico
eastward and the other surrounding countries. Today, mostly on the Yucatan
Peninsula and in the state of Chiapas, Mayan culture is still thriving with four
to six million people, over 30 languages, and many ethnic backgrounds
represented. Modern Mayans still continue many of the traditions of their
ancient culture, such as speaking their ancient dialects instead of Spanish,
growing their traditional crops (corn, beans, chile, tomatoes, and squash) with
the same techniques, and using herbal medicinal treatments instead of modern
medicine. Many spiritual aspects of Mayan life, the purpose for their ancient
cities, is still exercised with many offerings and pilgrimages to modern
churches, sometimes fusing Catholicism with Mayan beliefs from antiquity.
Around 550 AD, Mayans settled Chichen (translated "the mouth of the well")
around two wells; one sacred and one "profane," used for everyday use. These
underground wells and subsequent waterways, known as "cenotes", were the
lifeblood of the community. Chichen Itza was primarily a rain forest area
settled on flat, porous limestone that rain seeped through to became trapped in
the insolvent bedrock below. These cenotes were, therefore, the oasis of the
society, full of rain and run off water for their living needs. Chichen Itza,
like most Mayan centers, was primarily a spiritual, ceremonial site instead of a
commercial area. The loose arrangement of decentralized farming communities came
together for offerings, sacrifices, and ceremonies in the town. Some trade,
education, and recreation were also performed there. Exhumed from the sacred
well were many ceremonial objects, skulls, and entire skeletons.
Evidence suggests that Chichen Itza was abandoned by the Mayans in the tenth
century. This is concurrent with evidence of all Mayan cities being abandoned
around this period. The abandonment has not yet been fully explained. The Mayans
returned to and resettled their cities around 1000 AD. Chichen Itza's
architecture is seen to have two distinctive styles; traditional Mayan
architecture, and more recent Toltec architecture. The Toltecs were another more
warlike tribe who invaded Chichen Itza around the year 800 AD. The Toltecs were
much more fierce than the Mayans and human sacrifice was a large part of their
rituals. It is quite easy to decipher which structures in Chichen Itza were
built before and after 800 AD.
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