It is day two and we are on the road again before sunup. This time it is off to Chichen Itza. We are far more rested today and although we got picked up over a half hour late we are in much better spirits. Today we are working our way inland away from the coast and unlike yesterday there is very little in the way of human activity along the highway. When we got halfway to Chichen Itza our guide Freddy started his litany. Freddy was not only an anthropologist but also a Mayan which made for a very interesting and informative lecture. He and his wife are trying to raise their children as Mayan as possible which includes sleeping in hammocks rather than beds. Among the vast information he gave us on the Mayan culture Freddy spent a great deal of time on the Mayan Calendar and its association with social and occupational status. Mayan occupations and social status was determined by birth date and we were able to purchase a Mayan calendar with our birthday and its significance listed. It turns out that I would have pretty much been doing the same thing that I am doing now. I was born on the day 13 Kan, In the month 12 Zac which makes me a; “Creator of possibilities, the illuminated one, the helper. Dispenses doubts with knowledge. His attribute is harmony while being governed by Mars.” This could also just make me a sucker who bought a calendar.
When you first see the Castle of Kukulcan Pyramid you begin to understand why it is one of the new seven wonders of world but it isn’t until you start exploring it that you really begin to understand just how incredible it is. First off, it is the largest Mayan Calendar in existence with just about every facet of its structure set up to track time. We just missed the descending of Kukulcan (the snake god) which happens every March 21st for the spring Solstice. At the certain time on the 21st the sun lines up so that a shadow appears which appears like a snake descending the staircase. Perhaps my favorite feature of the Pyramid thought is that if you stand by the north stairway and clap your hands the sound that comes back to you is the sound of a quetzal, the sacred bird of the Mayans. Apparently the steps have been designed in such a way as to create this harmonic distortion. How they were able to tune their stairs to sound like their sacred bird is mind boggling. Apparently the pyramid is made in such a way that it is a natural amplifier and a priest speaking from the top could be heard above the massive crowds that would attend the ceremonies. At some point archaeologist decided to tunnel into the interior of the pyramid to see what was inside. What they found was another pyramid so it is thought that every fifty two years, which is the Mayan life cycle, a new pyramid was build over the old one. In the very interior they found a jaguar chair and a Chac mool sculpture which told them that the pyramid was used for human sacrifice. As I said on my last blog it would seem that Cichen Itza was more associated with human sacrifice than Tulum or at least we didn’t see evidence or hear about it. It turns out that there were two types of human sacrifice performed at Chichen Itza. The first was mostly reserved for the enemy warriors. These were more violent and consisted of breaking the warriors back and while he was incapacitated cutting out his still beating heart and burning it in the bowl which Chac mool held on his belly. The second was reserved for children who were raised for the purpose of sacrifice and less violent. Up until the age of sacrifice usually around thirteen or fourteen these children and their families were treated very well. At the ceremony of Sacrifice they were drugged and dressed in robes that were decorated with gold and jewels and then thrown in to the cenote, a large sinkhole with groundwater in the bottom. Some of these children survive and then they were exalted. There were many more buildings at Chichen Itza, but perhaps second only to the Castle of Kukulcan in importance is the ball court, one of the best examples outside of Peru. Again there is evidence of human sacrifice associated with the game but it is disputed just which was sacrificed the winner or loser. From the Ball Court it is just a short walk down to the Cenote and its sauna building. Again we worked our way back to the bus through the markets and again we were glad that we had been there early when we saw all the buses arriving.
|This door was cut into Kukulcan Pyramid to find what lay inside|
|Ball Game Court from a distance|
|Chac Mool on the Temple of the Warriors|
|The Temple of the Warriors|
|Chac Mool at the Platform of the Eagles and Jaguars|
|Inside the Ball Game Court|
|The Sacred Cenote|
|Eileen at the Platform of the Eagles and Jaguars|
|Platform of the Skulls, Where the skulls of the victims of War were stacked|
|Annex to the Temple of the Jaguars|