Published: September 8th 2005September 8th 2005
El Castillo Pyramid
El Castillo Pyramid, Chichen Itza, Yucatan, Mexico - © Copyright 1998 Static Brain
The Maya civilization is split up into into three time periods which spanned approximately 3,000 years. The first is the Pre-Classic period which spanned from 2000 B.C.-250 A.D. The second is the Classic period which spanned from 250 A.D.-900 A.D. The third is the Post-Classic period which spanned from 900 A.D.-1500 A.D. The Maya lived in the eastern one third of Mesoamerica, mainly in the Yucatan Peninsula. Many modern day Maya still inhabit the area today. They are a group of related Native American tribes who have the same linguistic organization. The best known group of Maya are the Maya Proper. The Maya Proper generally occupied the Yucatan peninsula. Chichén Itzá was first settled by the Maya who built up the original sections of the city. Chichen Itza was then conquered by a displaced segment of the Toltec population, who settled in the city, and remained for 200 years, until the fall of their empire. Some scholars hypothesize that the attacks of the Toltecs may have been one of the possible factors that lead to the ultimate demise of the Maya. Sculptures, murals and ceramic vessles in the Mayan and Toltec art styles have been uncovered from the site at Chichen Itza by archaeologists.
The name Chichen Itza (chee-chehn eet-sah) means "mouth of the well of the itzas" and some writers have referred to it as the "city of the water sorcerers", according to the guide at the site. Chichen Itza is an ageless and time worn Mesoamerican city, and an archaeological treasure trove. Chichen Itza is very popular for it's ancient archaeological ruins and is the most visited Mayan ruin site in Mexico. It is cherished because of it's vast amount of Mayan ruins still standing on the site today. It is, unequivocally and without a doubt, a "must see" for the serious ruin buff. Some of Chichen Itza is still partially buried deep in the tropical rainforests, in the central part of theYucatan peninsula, just southwest of Cancun, Mexico near the Caribbean sea, in the state of Yucatan, Mexico.
The Maya were highly skilled in architecture, math and astronomy. The pyramid has a square-base and steps on all four sides and is around 75 feet tall. The pyramid has 91 steps each in 4 faces. The top of the pyramid has 1 step so that the total of the steps are 91x4+1=365 which are equal to the days in a year. The pyramid was designed to be (among other things) a calendar to mark the passing of time. On the north side of the pyramid the ramps of the staircase are finished at the bottom with two serpent heads. At each vernal equinox there is a play of light and shadow on the staircase that looks like a serpent descending from the top and wriggling downwards, that symbolizes the return and descent of the god Kukulcan.
Mesoamerican pyramids were customarily built over the tops of older pyramids. El Castillo is no exception. It too was built over an existing structure. This made the new temple much more astounding and beautiful. It also made the new temple more supernaturnal and spiritual in that: the Maya believed that if they repeated the same rituals over and over in their religious ceremonies (ritual bloodletting, sacrifice, etc.) in the same spot that this would consolidate and focus all the religious and magical power in one spot and cause it to grow in that spot over time. Inside El Castillo archeaologists have found well preserved art and architecture in the older more sacred temple buried beneath the newer temple. It is a major archaeological find.