The sacred city of the Itza, called Chichen Itza (chee-chehn eet-sah)
in Maya, is located 2-1/2 hours from Cancun Mexico. This archaeological site is rated among the most
important of the Maya culture and covers an area of approximately six square miles where hundreds of
buildings once stood. Now most are mounds, but about thirty may still be seen by
The ruins are divided into two groups. One group belongs to the classic
Maya Period and was built between the 7th and 10th centuries A.D., at which time the city
became a prominent ceremonial center. The other group corresponds to the Maya-Toltec Period,
from the later part of the 10th century to the beginning of the 13th century A.D. This
area includes the Sacred Well and most of the outstanding ruins.
When Chichen Itza was first settled it was largely agricultural.
Because of the many cenotes in the area, it would have been a good place to settle. During
the Central Phase of the Classic Period, referred to as Florescence, (625 -800 A.D.) arts
and sciences flourished here. It was at this time that Chichen Itza became a religious
center of increasing importance, evidenced by the buildings erected: the Red House,
the House of the Deer, the Nunnery and its Annex, the Church, the Akab Dzib, the Temple of
the Three Lintels and the House of Phalli.
Toward the end of the Classic Period, from 800 to 925 A.D., the
foundations of this magnificent civilization weakened, and the Maya abandoned their
religions centers and the rural land around them. New, smaller centers were built and
the great cities like Chichen Itza were visited only to perform religious rites or bury
the dead. The Itza people abandoned their city by the end of the 7th century A.D. and
lived on the west coast of the peninsula for about 250 years. However, by the 10th
century A.D. they returned to Chichen Itza.
Around 1000 A.D. the Itza allied themselves with two powerful tribes,
Xio and Cocom, both claiming to be descendants of the Mexicans. This alliance was favorable
to the Itza for about two centuries. During this time, the people of Chichen Itza added to
the site by constructing magnificent buildings bearing the touch of Toltec art: porches,
galleries, colonnades and carvings depicting serpents, birds and Mexican gods.
The Toltec influenced the Itza in more ways than just architecture.
They also imposed their religion on the Itza, which meant human sacrifice on a large scale.
They expanded their dominions in northern Yucatan with an alliance with Mayapan and Uxmal.
As the political base of Chichen Itza expanded, the city added even more spectacular
buildings: the Observatory, Kukulcan's Pyramid, the Temple of the Warriors, The Ball Court,
and The Group of the Thousand Columns.
The Temple of the Warriors has pillars sculptured in bas-relief,
which have retained much of their original color. Murals once adorned its walls. It is
surrounded by numerous ruined buildings known as the Group of a Thousand Columns.
The Cenote of Sacrifice was reserved for rituals involving human
sacrifice involving the rain God. The victims were not only young women, but also children
and elderly men and women.
Possibly the best known construction on the site is Kukulcan's Pyramid.
El Castillo (Kukulkan-Quetzalcoatl), a square-based, stepped pyramid that is approximately
75 feet tall. This pyramid was built for astronomical purposes and during the vernal
equinox (March 20) and the autumnal equinox (September 21) at about 3 P.M.. the sunlight
bathes the western balustrade of the pyramid's main stairway. This causes seven isosceles
triangles to form imitating the body of a serpent 37 yards long that creeps downwards
until it joins the huge serpent's head carved in stone at the bottom of the stairway.
Mexican researcher Luis El Arochi calls it "the symbolic descent of Kukulcan"
(the feathered serpent), and believes it could have been connected with agricultural
Add-On Tours to Ik Kil and Ek Balam
Ik Kil (an ecological park near Chichen Itza)
Ek Balam (an archeological place near Chichen Itza)