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The Maya Essay, Research Paper

Noor Al-Kuwari

Chichen Itza, The Maya

Deep within the jungle of Mexico and extending into the limestone shelf of the Yucatan peninsula lie the mysterious temple and pyramids of the Maya. While Europe was still in the midst of the dark ages, these amazing people had mapped the heavens, evolved the only true writing system native to the Americas and were masters of mathematics. They invented the calendars we use today.

Across a huge jungle landscape with an amazing degree of architectural perfection and variety. Their legacy in stone, which has survived in a spectacular fashion at places such as Palenque, Tikal, Tulum, Chichen Itza, Copan and Uxmal, lives on as do the seven million descendants of classic Maya civilization.

Chichen Itza is one of the greatest ruins of the Maya . I have been to Chichen Itza last year ad I have seen so much great things over there. At the hub of Toltac, Chichen stands it’s most important structure. The massive Kukulch pyramid called “El Castillo” (the castle) is roughly at the center of the site. Climbing it is quite a challenge and those who make it are rewarded. Whit a spectacular view of the city and surrounding country side A trip inside the pyramid is quite the opposite. The dark, unbearably humid corridors and chambers are too much for some people. Chichen Itza is a magical place. I had the opportunity wander around the site for two hours. Watching the massive pyramid take shape through the lifting fog is an experience I will not soon forget. Every year over 40,000 people make the trek to the great pyramid to watch in awe as the snake diamond backed body slowly appears. Great for -side temple- pyramid which was dedicated to the cult of Kukulcan. Inside the Castillo has been discovered on earlier Toltec-Maya pyramids, with beautifully preserved details. Also if you stand facing the foot of the temple and shout the echo comes back as a piercing shriek. And a person standing on the top step can speak in a normal voice and be heard by those at the ground level for

some distance. This quality is also shared by another Mayan pyramid at Tika.

View from the top of the Castillo, looking towards the temple of the Worriers. The temple of the Worriers and it’s adjacent Temple of the Jaguar are the most awe inspiring ruins on the complex. A massive temple structure , surrounded by hundreds of columns is carved with relief. A splendid building resting upon a stepped platform surrounded by colonnaded halls. It is a good example of Maya architectects and craftsmen. The building is approached on the northwest through impressive file of square columns, which are decorated on all four with relief. The columns continue on into the jungle, that part of the jungle, that part of the temple still has not been restored. It’s an unsetting sight to see how easily the forest has reclaimed the area.

Next, the strangest site of all, east of the major Chichen Itza ruins is a dark underground world the Mayans called Cenote. They are deep water filled sinkholes formed by water percolating through the soft limestone above. Since the porous soil held little water, these underground bodies were extremely important to the city. Entry is through a vertical hole with narrow stairs steps carved by The Mayan’s themselves. The air is thick and musty. One misstep on the slimy ledges theatens to send you failing over 20 feet. Stalagtites of blood red limestone seem to ooze from the dripping walls. Ahead is a strange green pool of glowing water. As you approach the pool roots of trees hanging before you. In their search for water they have penetrated the ceiling, dropping 50 feet to the pool below. It’s like an eerie underground forest. After crawled under some especially low hanging stalactites a beautiful blue green pool of unknown depth stretches out before you. A massive stalagmite hangs down, just inches from touching the surface, and above a piercing beam of light streams in from the ceiling, illuminating the pool and entire chamber. Once a year, in April, the beam of light touches the tip of the stalagmite. There are many instances of ancient people building moment to take advantage of events like these but this is something that is totally natural and unplanned. There is a darker side to this and other Cenote, however. In the wells around Chichen Itza have been found scores of skeletons. Mayan petroglyphs depict human sacrifices at these sites. What lies under this Cenote is not Known, no one has ever been able to reach it’s depth.

Finally, one of the most pure Mexican culture was found in the Ballcourt Temple. Two parallel walls 27ft high, and an overall length of about 490ft. This is the largest court in Mesoamerica. The rings set high on either wall were used in scoring the game. At either end of the I-shaped playing field, is a small temple, the one on the north containing extensive bas-relief of Toltec life. Above the east wall of the court is placed the important temple of Jaguars. It is not hard to imagine a Mayan King siting here presiding over the games. And it is said that the winning captain would present his head to the losing cpitan, who then decapitates him. While this may seem a strange reward, the Mayans believed this to be the ultimate honor. The winning captain getting a direct ticket to heaven instead of going through the 13 steps that the Mayan’s believed they had to go through in order to reach heaven..

In conclusion, Chichen iItza is just one of so many good examples of the high techniques and mathematical skills that they developed and used. They were great in building on the inherited inventions and ideas of earlier civilization. They developed some other amazing things like, astronomy, calendrical system and hieroglyphic writing. The Maya were noted as well for elaborate and highly decorated ceremonial architecture.

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