Chichén Itzá

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Chichén Itzá

(chēchān` ētsä`), city of the ancient MayaMaya
, indigenous people of S Mexico and Central America, occupying an area comprising the Yucatán peninsula and much of the present state of Chiapas in Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, parts of El Salvador, and extreme western Honduras.
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, central Yucatán, Mexico. It was founded around two large cenotes, or natural wells. According to one system of dating, it was founded c.514, probably by the ItzáItzá
, Maya of Yucatán (Mexico) and Petén (Guatemala). Probable founders of Chichén Itzá, which they occupied at various times from c.514 to 1194, they moved (1450?) S from Campeche to Lake Petén.
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, and after being abandoned (692) and reoccupied (c.928) was chosen by Kulkulcán (see QuetzalcoatlQuetzalcoatl
[Nahuatl,=feathered serpent], ancient deity and legendary ruler of the Toltec in Mexico. The name is also that of a Toltec ruler, who is credited with the discovery of corn, the arts, science, and the calendar.
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) as his capital sometime between 968 and 987. After being defeated by Mayapán in 1194, the Itzá abandoned the city for the last time. Spanning two great periods of Maya civilization, Chichén Itzá shows both Classic and Postclassic architectural styles. The Classic style is massive, with heavy, decorative sculpture and cramped interiors. The later buildings have plainer, more austere lines, with the sculpture based on the Mexican feathered-serpent motif and columns, and ToltecToltec
, ancient civilization of Mexico. The name in Nahuatl means "master builders." The Toltec formed a warrior aristocracy that gained ascendancy in the Valley of Mexico c.A.D. 900 after the fall of Teotihuacán.
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 influence is strong. The Castillo, or principal temple of Kulkulcán, is representative of the period. Rare among Maya buildings is the round tower called the Caracol [snail shell], built in the Postclassic period; it was probably an astronomical observatory. Into Chichén Itzá's sacred well, mecca of countless pilgrimages from Central America and the Mexican plateau, were thrown jade and metal offerings. Humans were also sacrificed. Dredgings of the well in modern times have yielded a valuable collection of artifacts.


See studies by D. Ediger (1971) and M. Cohodas (1978).

Chichén Itzá


a political and cultural center of the Maya, located in the northern part of the Yucatán peninsula, in Mexico. Chichén Itzá was probably founded in the eighth century A.D. Captured by the Toltecs in the tenth century, it became the capital of the Toltec empire in the mid-11th century. In 1178 it was destroyed by the forces of three city-states—Mayapán, Uxmal, and Izamal. By the time of the Spanish conquest (mid-16th century), Chichén Itzá was in ruins.

Numerous excavations conducted at Chichén Itzá led to the discovery of large Maya-Toltec architectural monuments, including the Temple of Kukulcán, a pyramid with nine stages (24 m high) and a wide stairway on each of the four sides, the Temple of the Warriors, atop a low pyramid (four stages), and the Temple of the Jaguars; the last two were decorated with wall paintings. Also discovered were the Caracol observatory, seven ball courts, and the ruins of four colonnades forming a gigantic rectangle (the Thousand Columns). Stylized statues of deities, reliefs rich in floral and geometric ornamentation, small sculptures, and artistic hand-crafted works were unearthed.


Chichén-Itzá: Guía oficial. Mexico City, 1955.
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Guides can be hired at Chichen Itza for the equivalent of pounds 10 - a small price worth paying.
Known for its 14-mile pristine Caribbean beach and all-inclusive resorts, Cancun is a short ferry ride to the turtle farms of Isla Mujeres and a two-hour drive from Chichen Itza, a massive Maya archaeological site and one of the New Seven Wonders of the World.
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