November 2, 2014

#136 Chichen Itza

Chichen Itza is the most famous and most frequently visited of Mexico's Mayan sites, the metropolis of Chichen Itza was the principal ceremonial center of the Yucatan.  



What can I say, El Castillo is photogenic.  /shrugs

On the spring and autumnal equinox the late afternoon light creates a shadow serpent that slithers down the 365 steps  of El Castillo de Kukulkcan to the giant's head at the pyramid's base.



On every other day, a lizard uses it as a cabana.

I am the ancient God of the Mayans and I laugh at your human pursuits!

I have no recollection of what this building was called.  I may have only been half listening while taking pictures of other stuff, but I paid close attention when our guide was talking about how perfectly it lines up with Venus and Mars (he also showed us pictures of midnight on the solstice full-moon), and their astronomy has nothing on the ancient Europeans (think Stonehenge).

Cenote Sagrada was a place of pilgrimage for the ancient Maya people. Thousands of objects have been removed from the bottom of the cenote, including skeletons of men and children.

The Yucatan Peninsula is a limestone with no streams or rivers.  The entire peninsula is pockmarked with natural sinkholes which expose the water table to the surface.  Cenote Segrada had social and religious significance to the Maya, including occasional human sacrifices made to the Water God.  

In hindsight, I wish Cort and I had stayed at the main site and explored the buildings rather than making our pilgrimage to Cenote Sagrada.

We did manage to visit the Great Ballcourt, though.  

The Great Ballcourt of Chichen Itza is 225 wide and 545 long.  It has no vault, solid walls, and is open to the sky.  Each end has a raised temple area, and the acoustics allow a whisper at one end to be heard clearly throughout the length and breadth of the court.  The echo will turn a single singer into harmony.  Sound waves are unaffected by wind direction or time of day.  The acoustic principals in play here are unexplained despite extensive study.


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Also, interesting to note: one of the captains would present their head to the other after the game to be decapitated.  Some believe it was a punishment for the losing captain, while others believe it was a reward (an immediate guarantee and ticket to heaven) for the winner.  The facts are unclear, except one:  you should never agree to be captain of a Mayan ball team!

That is blood spurting out from the decapitated head and turning into snakes.
It was hella hot the day we were here, and I wish we'd spent more time exploring the ruins.  The walk to and from the cenote was long, the cenote was ultimately unimpressive, and both ways it was a gauntlet of vendors trying to sell tchotchkes for "almost free".  I almost wish I'd bought a bedspread there, but the money I spent on cold water and an ice cream was so very worth it.