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Chichen Itza Essay, Research Paper
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
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
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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