Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Chichen Itza

The world famous Chichen Itza temple. The one ruin that immediately is associated with the Mayan culture. This site is so incredible. On the spring and fall equinox the sun casts a shadow of a serpent that moves down the pyramid and into the ground. Thousands gather at sunrise to watch the image and marvel at what was built by a culture that had no tools beyond bronze age technology. 3 years ago the sky was cloudy and the shadow did not appear on the spring equinox. The Mayans immediate said that was a sign of impending terrible weather. Hurricane Wilma lashed the Yucatan peninsula that summer.

Me and the tour guide at Chichen Itza. He is of Mayan descent and is extemely knowledgeable of the history, legends, and archaelogical significance of the ruins. While the ruling class of the Mayans, the kings and priests, were slaughtered by the Europeans in the 1500s, the working class and the farmers/hunters disappeared into the jungle. The Mayan language and culture still exist today with over 3 million people descended from the lost civilation. Unfortunately, the huge library of the Mayans were lost with the slaughter of the upper class. Rumor has it that one of the books containing the history/knowledge of the Mayan people is hidden in the Vatican, hidden away from anyone who could interpet what it means.

The temple of the warriors in the background with 'the garden of columns' that was thought to have held a thatch roof over the area. This area is immense and was thought to be some type of market place.

On top of the temple of the warriors is Chac Mool. He is reclining, with a bowl on his lap, supposedly waiting for a sacrifice. Of course, we don't know what the 'sacrifice' was.

Students of the Chichen Itza ruins believes that this represent the heads of slain warriors, mounted on poles as a warning to invaders or warring neighbors. Some believe that this practice started when the Toltecs started to influence the Mayan culture.

The other large icon of the Mayan culture is this ball court at Chichen Itza. This is not the beginning of basketball! Archaelogists believe that the ball used in this game was about 17 pounds and hands weren't allowed to pass the ball. At the end of the game the winning captain was beheaded, sacifaced to the gods for his skill.

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