Top 10 facts about Chichen Itza

Top 10 facts about Chichen Itza

When looking up information to supplement your trip to Chichen Itza you will uncover several interesting facts about this antique city. In this article we are going to look at the top 10 facts about Chichen Itza; the more unknown yet fascinating facts about Chichen Itza that make it the world-famous monument it is today. Chichen Itza is the second most popular site for visitors to Mexico. It is considered to be one of the Seven Wonders of the New World. Located on the Yucatan Peninsula, Chichen Itza was a large city built by the Mayan people. It thrived from about 600 AD., until 1221 when the power in the region shifted to Mayapan.

Chichen Itza entered the popular imagination in 1843 with the book Incidents of Travel in Yucatan by John Lloyd Stephens. The book recounted Stephens’ visit to Yucatán and his tour of Maya cities, including Chichen Itza. The book prompted other explorations of the city. Today it can be visited by tourists and religious pilgrims alike. Many of the city’s sites will surprise you and have you itching to see more wonders.

1. Grisly death practices were openly exhibited in Chichen Itza.

The land of the Mayans was not only about fun and revelry. It was a lot about grisly offerings and brutal death punishments. Quite comparable to what you would have seen at the Colosseum in Rome.

Many ruins in Chichen Itza are a testimony to these practices. The Platform of Skulls or a Skull Rack is the most portentous. Hundreds of heads of victims and soldiers were imprinted on to the walls of the platform to control people and scare adversaries.

2. The Serpent god, Kukulkan, descends on the pyramid twice every year.

The Temple of Kukulkan was designed so that every year, the sun forms the shadow of a serpent on the pyramid during the spring and autumn equinox. The rolling shadow, akin to the body of a snake, slowly moves down as the sun sets before amalgamation with the serpent head at the foot of the stairs.

One can only imagine the religious and ceremonial significance that the equinoxes held for the Mayan people. Even today, hundreds of locals and tourists flock to Chichen Itza to witness this surreal phenomenon.

3. Chichen Itza had the largest ball court in the Americas.

The Great Ball Court at Chichen Itza is the largest in the Americas. The deadly but popular ball game of Mesoamerica was played here. Losers were beheaded at the end of the game. While seeing the sight at the ball court, glance upward to spot stone rings on the walls of the court. Players were required to shoot heavy rubber balls through these rings located at a height of 8 m from the ground. Do you think you can manage such a feat?

4. Monuments of Chichen Itza were astronomically aligned.

The Mayans were strong supporters and believers of astronomy. This is apparent in how and why they built their monuments. At Chichen Itza, you can see a round-shaped observatory, the El Caracol, which was specifically used to gauge the positions of planets and the sun.

5. The Pyramid of Kukulkan has 365 steps.

The most iconic landmark – the Pyramid of Kukulkan has 365 steps in total – 91 on each side and one at the top. This equals the number of days in a year. Each side represented one season and was used to figure out the best times for sowing seeds and harvesting crops. The huge pyramid functioned as one big calendar.

6. The main pyramid houses manifold smaller pyramids inside it.

The Kukulkan Pyramid, which is 30 meters in height, is home to two smaller pyramids within itself. Both are 20 meters and 10 meters tall respectively. Scientists have compared El Castillo, Kukulkan’s Pyramid, to the Russian nesting dolls designs.

The smallest pyramid was built during the original Mayan reign before the Toltec invasion. Researchers believe that it could help us understand the Mayan culture’s original style and customs.

7. This celebrated Mayan site may not be exclusively Mayan.

Chichen Itza was indeed constructed in two phases: the Pre-Classic or Formative period which was completely subjugated by the Mayan people and the latter period where there were several influences of the Toltec regime. According to National Geographic and several other sources, the Toltecs invaded Chichen Itza in the 10th century.

The most recognizable construction, the Temple of Kukulkan, was built after that and hence, shows strong Central Mexican control. A contradicting theory indicates that these influences were because of strong trade relations between the Mayans and the Toltecs. Nevertheless, the Toltec influence was heavily present and the most iconic monuments of Chichen Itza – Pyramid of Kukulkan, Temple of Warriors, and Great Ball Court – are of the Toltec style.

8. Other than unexplained shadows, Chichen Itza is home to mysterious sounds too.

Yes, Chichen Itza is home to interesting sounds, like at the lost city of Chichen Itza. If you clap your hands at the base of El Castillo’s staircase, you can hear a reverberation that is quite unlike anything else. This reverberation is akin to the warble of the Mexican quetzal, a bird that was thought to be sacred in the Mayan culture.

9. Chichen Itza gets its name from a cenote nearby.

The Yucatan peninsula is full of natural cenotes. A cenote is a natural pit resulting from the collapse of limestone bedrock that exposes groundwater underneath. They are especially associated with the Yucatán Peninsula of Mexico.

At the Northern end of the archaeological site, you will see the ‘Sacred Cenote’. It is believed to have been used for sacrificial purposes. Chichen means ‘mouth of the wells’ and Itza refers to the Mayan tribe that lived in these regions.

10. Chichen Itza came to an unexplained end.

The glory of Chichen Itza lessened and the city came to an unexplained end in the 14th century. The inhabitants left never to return to the city again. Researchers link this mass exodus to pitiable weather and an immense wave of droughts.

Have you organized your travel plans yet? Because now you can, with these top 10 facts about Chichen Itza in Tinúm Municipality, Yucatán State, Mexico. I hope you enjoyed reading this article.