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Elaine and Peter’s Travel Diary

Monday, 02 Mar 2020

Location: Chicken Itza, Central America

MapA long day today. We set off from the hotel walking into the site of Chichen Itza at five thirty to see the sunrise rise over the ancient monuments. The walk took us about twenty minutes, passing by numerous ruins on the way. Apparently there are more Ancient settlements in Mexico than the are in Egypt. They seem to be everywhere.
From our balcony we had a clear view of a building known as the Observatory.

And so, Chichen Itza said to be the best preserved on the peninsula and is one of the New Seven Wonders of the World and as such is a World Heritage Site.

No one is certain when the first settlement developed here. Myths told of how the first settler was the Toltec god, King Quetzalcoatl. In its heyday it was a thriving commercial, religious and military centre supporting over 35,000 people. It survived until the thirteenth century. It was thought be run initially as a confederacy but that cannot be verified. There is abundant evidence of the presence of the military in the detailed bas relief and carvings. Much can be learned from the intricate headdresses and costumes of the commanders and the gods. Slaves and prisoners have their hands tied behind them, heads bowed waiting to be decapitated.

In spite of the grisly history, you can't help but be overawed by this impressive complex. Everything is aligned with the sun and the stars and the carvings take on new meanings when linked to the astrological concepts behind them. They had an advanced knowledge of astronomy for their time. The engineers were very skilful in calculating the movement of the stars to align the buildings with no metal tools were available to carve these intricate patterns, perfectly symmetrical.

At the centre of these complexes we found El Castillo, a 24 metre high Pyramid, dedicated to Quetzalcoatl. It dominated the site and with the sun rising behind its striking geometrical designs was spectacular. Various features of this building corresponded with the Mayan calendar, too numerous to remember!

What you can't miss are the four staircases each made up of 91 steps plus the temple at the top made a total,of 365 steps. At the bottom of the north staircase said to lead to the main entrance to the temple, we found two serpent heads guarding the temple. Thousands of visitors arrive on each equinox to witness the play of light and shadow which cleverly makes them appear to crawl up the Pyramid to the temple at the top.

And in spite of the numerous ruins, excavations are ongoing and remarkably another smaller perfectly intact Pyramid has been found inside the El Castillo.

To the front of the north face, we found the main altar, and to the left of that the platform dedicated to Tzompantl...this is covered in depictions of skulls sitting on top of one another. Here the skulls of the sacrificed were indeed lined up on top of the platform, maybe as a deterrent or also as a sign of prowess.
The skulls all seemed to be grinning at you!!

Some way along a path behind this area we found one of the twenty five Cenote, huge natural wells twenty five metres deep. These were sacred places. Many skeletons, skulls of adults and children, offerings of jade and gold and body parts, arrow heads and much more have been found here. These were places used for human sacrifice particularly to the revered rain god Chac.

On the way back to the main complex, we wandered through the ball court which was much bigger and beautifully decorated than we have seen in other places.
On each side are the replacas of the teams and their captains, with scenes of those bound for sacrifice with hearts and heads separate from their bodies. It is has never been proven that the winner was to be sacrificed but it is widely believed that the person to be sacrificed had been determined before the ritualistic game had begun.

And so this was our last visit ofnthe tour. And what a way to end the holiday at a place like this.

Later in the day, we packed up and journeyed the four hours to the airport to get the flight home from Cancun with our minds full of information and our hearts full of so may memories of yet another country..