Thursday, July 23, 2009

Day 46, Chichen Itza, Mexico

We have decided to take a guided tour so that we can learn as much as possible about the great Mayan civilization……

Deep within the jungles of Mexico lies the mysterious temples 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. Without metal tools, beasts of burden or even the wheel they were able to construct vast cities across a huge jungle landscape with an amazing degree of architectural perfection and variety.

Around 300 B.C., the Maya adopted a hierarchical system of government with rule by nobles and kings. This civilization developed into highly structured kingdoms during the Classic period, A.D. 200-900.

Their society consisted of many independent states, each with a rural farming community and large urban sites built around ceremonial centers.

It started to decline around A.D. 900 when - for reasons which are still largely a mystery - the southern Maya abandoned their cities.

When the northern Maya were integrated into the Toltec society by A.D. 1200, the Maya dynasty finally came to a close, although some peripheral centers continued to thrive until the Spanish Conquest in the early sixteenth century.

The Pyramid of Kukulkan
Towering above the other buildings at 79 feet (24 m) high, the Pyramid of Kukulkan has a structured feel about it. Two of its sides have been completely restored, the other two were left to show the condition before work commenced. Each side had originally 91 steps, adding the platform at the top as a final step there are 365 in total one for every day of the year.

The ancient site of Chichen Itza is impressive enough at the best of times. But there are four days of the year in particular when it's revealed in all its true celestial glory, and its otherworldly beauty is even more pronounced than usual.

The Spring and Autumn Equinoxes are the two days of the year when day and night are equal in length. And these events in the calendar held such significance to the Mayan people that they constructed a huge pyramid in honor of it.

On the 20th and 21st of March, and the 21st and 22nd of September, the shadows that the pyramid casts create a diamond-backed, snake-like creature that creeps down one side of the building towards the well of sacrifice.

Thousands show up at each equinox to see this incredible feat of engineering and architecture that dates back to 1500BC. The atmosphere is generally quiet - almost to the point of reverence - and the experience remains etched into the mind of all who lucky enough to witness it..

Naturally, it's an impressive sight, and there are usually thousands of people on the site at these times.

The temple at the top of the pyramid has carvings of Chac, the rain god, and Quetzalcoatl, the serpent god. This temple was built over the top of an original structure.

We entered the old temple via a passage under the northern stairway and inside Marti and I saw a sculpture of a jaguar, painted red and with jade eyes, exactly as it was discovered ....awesome!!

Chichen Itza has been widely studied, and excavated and restored more than any of the other Mayan cities. Yet its history is still clouded in mystery and there are many contradicting theories and legends.

It is clear that a large Mayan community thrived here between around 700AD and 900AD, and built most of the structures in the southern area.

However, the main buildings in the central area, including the Pyramid of Kukulkan, the Temple of the Warriors and the Ball Court, are Toltec in design and influence.

Another fascinating mystery at Chichen Itza concerns the strange acoustic anomalies observable at the great ball court and the temple of Kukulkan.

Words softly whispered at one end of the great ball court (measuring 545 feet long by 225 feet wide) are clearly audible all the way at the other end and a single clap or shout sounded in the centre of the ball court will produce nine distinct echoes.

Of course we decided to test the curious acoustic phenomenon at the pyramid of Kukulkan.
We clapped and it echoed back as the chirping sound of the Quetzal bird, the sacred bird associated with both the name of the pyramid and its deity Kukulkan/Quetzalcoatl.......WOW!!

We were totally enthralled by this place and decided to watch the Chichen Itza light and sound show!

Truly amazing.. as we travelled back in time, we felt privileged to "feel" the history of this grand archaeological site..........deservedly a new Wonder of the World.....

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