Chichen Itza II

Tags: Chichen Itza, Maya ruins, Mexico

Date: September 29, 2020

After a short delay of about 14 months, we are back with the second part of our trip to Chichen Itza.

The temple of the Warriors consists of a pyramid with rows of columns in the front and to the sides. This temple complex is very similar to a temple complex in Tula, the capital city of the Toltec empire, located northwest of what is now Mexico City. The strong similarity between the two temples probably indicates some form of cultural contact between the two regions, despite the long distance between Tula and Chichen Itza.

View along a few of the columns:

When the city was inhabited these would have supported the roof of a larger building complex.

Some of the rectangular columns have carvings of people or gods, as well as animals and serpents:

An iguana sunning itself in the morning sun:

The Osario (the bone house) is a step-pyramid temple with staircases on each side:

There is a temple on top with an opening into the pyramid that leads to a natural cave 12 meters (39 ft) below. Unfortunately the top of the pyramid is not open to the public. However, the cave was excavated in the late 19th century by Edward H. Thompson (the US consul and archaeologist that explored the sacred cenote described in the previous post and who used to own the Hacienda where we were staying). He discovered several skeletons and artifacts such as jade beads inside the cave.

Carving that looks like an eagle with a human face with its tongue hanging out:

The Osario pyramid is a smaller version of The Temple of Kukulkan and it also has carvings of the feathered serpent god along the pyramid steps:

A column of Chaac masks (note the trunk-like noses of Chaac, the rain god) next to the Osario:

Close by The Osario, there are some of the oldest structures in the Chichen Itza archeological zone. The best preserved of these and indeed in the whole of Chichen Itza is the Casa Colorada (meaning the "Red House" in Spanish). Carved hieroglyphs in a chamber of the structure mentions a date corresponding to 869 AD, the oldest date found inscribed in Chitchen Itza. On the back wall of Casa Colorada is a small adjoining ball court:

The group of structures known as las Monjas (the Nuns or the Nunnery) are all built in the Puuc architectural style like Uxmal, one of the very first Maya sites we visited in September 2018. The Puuc style dates from the Terminal Classic period and is characterized by "carefully cut stone mosaics, often repeated geometric elements alternated with more elaborate figurative sculpture set into the blank, flat stone facades of the building" (to quote our own text form the Uxmal post):

Despite the name of the complex and its buildings (i.e. Las monjas), the buildings did not have religious functions but were governmental palaces. The same goes for another building in the Las Monjas complex, La Iglesia:

Note the trunk like noses of the rain god Chaac protruding from the facade and front of the building — another characteristic of the Puuc style.

A few more views of some of the buildings in the Las Monjas complex:

El Caracol (The Snail) also known as the observatory is located close to Las Monjas. It is named after the spiral staircase inside the round building:

The structure is unusual due to its placement on top of a platform but mostly because of its round shape, which is rarely seen in Maya architecture. It has been suggested that El Caracol might have been used as an early observatory with its doors and windows aligned to the path of Venus in the sky.

Félicie in the great ballcourt:

The great ballcourt is one of thirteen!! ballcourts archeologists have identified in Chichen Itza. It measures 168 m by 70 m making it not just the largest ballcourt found in Chichen Itza but also the largest and best preserved ballcourt in ancient Mesoamerica. It is also larger than both soccer and american football fields. The walls of the platforms flanking the main playing are 8 m high, positioned to the East and the West of the center of the court. On each wall are rings carved with intertwined feathered serpents, as seen over Félicie's left shoulder.

At the base of the 8 m high vertical walls are slanted walls with sculpted panels of teams of ball players topped with giant feathered shakes whose bodies run all along the top with the snake heads protruding at the end:

The carved panels underneath the snakes show the two teams, each consisting of seven warrior players richly dressed with feathers on their helmets, bar nose rings, arm protectors, knee pads, etc. The players of the two teams are facing each other and separating them is a large circular motif (the "ball") containing a skull with a mohawk and smoke or air coming out of its mouth, possibly representing speech.

On one of the panels, a possible fate of the players on the losing team is suggested: The player to right of the "ball" is kneeling and he has no head, whereas the player to the left holds the cut off head in his left hand and a knife in the right (only the left player shown here):

The northern and southern ends of the ballcourt are marked by temples. The North Temple is also known as the Temple of the Bearded Man due the temple's carvings showing a figure that has a carving under his chin that resembles a beard. Here is Félicie trying to spot the beard:

View towards the larger but less well preserved South Temple. Note that both carved rings on the flanking walls are visible:

Built into the east wall is the Temple of the Jaguar with the upper portion, accessible by flanking stairs, overlooking the ballcourt:

The entrance to the lower part of the temple is located on the outside of the ballcourt and features a jaguar throne, similar to one found in the inner temple of the great pyramid, Temple of Kukulkan (as described in the "Chichen Itza I" post, although that throne is not accessible to the public). The one found in the pyramid was painted red and with spots made with inlaid jade whereas this one is well worn and missing paint or any other decoration: