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Chichen Itza Essay, Research Paper

Chichen Itza

The ruined ancient city occupying an area of 4 square miles (10 square km) in

south-central state, . It is located some 90 miles (150 km) east-northeast of and

75 miles (120 km) east-southeast of the modern city of . The only source of water

in the arid region around the site is from wells (cenotes) formed by sinkholes in

limestone formations. Two big cenotes on the site made it a suitable place for the

city and gave it its name, from chi (”mouths”), chen (”wells”), and Itz , the name

of the Maya tribe that settled there. Chich n Itz was designated a UNESCO in


Chich n was founded about the 6th century AD, presumably by Maya peoples of the

Yucat n Peninsula who had occupied the region since the Pre-Classic, or Formative,

Period (1500 BC-AD 300). The principal early buildings are in an architectural style

known as , which shows a number of divergences from the styles of the southern

lowlands. These earliest structures are to the south of the Main Plaza and include

the Akabtzib (”House of the Dark Writing”), the Chichanchob (”Red House”), the

Iglesia (”Church”), the Casa de las Monjas (”Nunnery”), and the observatory El

Caracol (”The Snail”). There is evidence that, in the 10th century, after the collapse

of the Maya cities of the southern lowlands, Chich n was invaded by foreigners,

probably Maya speakers who had been strongly influenced by–and perhaps were

under the direction of–the of central Mexico. These invaders may have been the

Itz for whom the site is named; some authorities, however, believe the Itz

arrived 200 to 300 years later.

In any event, the invaders were responsible for the construction of such major

buildings as the Castillo (the great pyramid), which rises 79 feet (24 metres) above

the Main Plaza. The Castillo has four sides, each with 91 stairs and facing a cardinal

direction; including the step on the top platform, these combine for a total of 365

steps–the number of days in the solar year. During the spring and autumnal

equinoxes, shadows cast by the setting sun give the appearance of a snake

undulating down the stairways. A carving of a plumed serpent at the top of the

pyramid is symbolic of (known to the Maya as Kukulc n), one of the major deities

of the ancient Meso-American pantheon. Excavations within the nine-platform

pyramid revealed another, earlier structure containing a red jaguar throne studded

with jade.

The ball court (for playing the game [Mayan: pok-ta-pok]), is 545 feet (166

metres) long and 223 feet (68 metres) wide, the largest such court in the Americas.

Six sculpted reliefs run the length of the walls of the court, apparently depicting the

victors of the game holding the severed head of a member of the losing team. On

the upper platform at one end of the court stands the Temple of the Jaguars, inside

of which is a mural showing warriors laying siege to a village. Standing on the

platform of the temple to the north of the court, it is possible to hear a whisper

from 150 feet (46 metres) away.

Other structures include the High Priest’s Grave and the Colonnade (Thousand

Columns) and the adjoining Temple of the Warriors. Most of these buildings

probably were completed in the Early Post-Classic Period (c. AD 900-1200). In the

Late Post-Classic Period (c. 1200-1540), Chich n appears to have been eclipsed by

the rise of the city of . For a time Chich n Itz joined and Mayap n in a political

confederacy known as the League of Mayap n.

About 1450 the League and the political supremacy of Mayap n dissolved. When

the Spanish entered the country in the 16th century, the Maya were living in many

small towns, but the major cities, including Chich n, were largely abandoned.

Long left to the jungle, Chich n Itz remained sacred to the Maya. Excavation

began in the 19th century, and the site became one of Mexico’s prime

archaeological zones.

A legendary tradition at Chich n was the Cult of the Cenote, involving human

sacrifice to the rain god, in which victims were thrown into the city’s major cenote

(at the northernmost part of the ruin), along with gold and jade ornaments and

other valuables. In 1904 , an American who had bought the entire site, began

dredging the cenote; his discovery of skeletons and sacrificial objects confirmed the


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