Chitzen Itza pics

In October of 2005,  when my daughter was about 5 months old, the wife & I got an offer we could not refuse: my brother-in-law offered to fly us to Mexico, and my parents offered us lodging at a resort in Cancun.  It was a “family” trip with my parents and both of my siblings and their families (my brother’s wife could not go because of work, unfortunately).  My sister’s four kids were 1-8 years old.  It was a blast.  My brother & I took a day trip to go to Chitzen Itza, being history nerds as well as D&D nerds.  That was the last year, I believe, that tourists could climb the 91 steps of the great pyramid, El Castillio.  Here are the pictures I took.  They should all be clickable to embiggen.

This is the “big pyramid” — I took a shot of one of the rougher faces, as you always see the nicer, more fully restored faces in books.  Fun fact: there is another, older pyramid temple inside this.  The outer pyramid has 91 steps on each of its four sides (91 x 4 = 364 ; add the altar for 365 days of the year.  Yay Mayan calendar!).

The Prince of Dorkness on the steps

Did I mention it was 90 degrees and 100% humidity? Hence the wet t-shirt.

My brother has a thing about heights and did not climb the pyramid.  The steps are pretty narrow — the Mayans must have had small feet.  There was a rope running down the steps, but the tour guide said a few people fall every year, and the steps generally inflict fatal bone breaks and cuts — he said they don’t bother calling a doctor, they just call a hearse.  I could believe that.  Still I climbed.

Down the steps.

As you can see, many people used all fours to climb.  It’s that steep.

What was I thinking? I still get dizzy looking at that picture.  Nice shot of the Mayan “concrete” though.

Almost everyone at the top took a picture like this, as if anyone can tell you’re at the top of a 24 meter pyramid.  (Actually the temple on top is another several meters tall but you can’t get on the roof.)

The view is pretty amazing.  Here are some shots from up there.

You could go inside the temple corridors (but not the inner room, IIRC).  This is looking out from one of the four entrances.  It was actually kind of crowded up there and the lady on the left refused to take a step back (and she also is touching the carvings on the walls.  That’s just rude.)

This is the “Temple of the Warriors” — all those columns have warriors and priests carved on them.  I never got a good shot close up.

This is one of the smaller temples, again from El Castillio.

This temple has several panels carved with a hawk-like image of Venus — pretty hard to see in this picture.

I forget what this is. I think they called it a noble's house.

One of the cooler ruins was the “Observatory“.

The whole site is amazing.  The Mayan roads, about 1000 years old, are still usable in areas.

This road runs through the jungle now.

Off to the side, you can see more ruins through the jungle.

This really gives you a sense of what the archaeologists who re-discovered Chitzen Itza saw.

I may be the only tourist in our group who took multiple shots of the model in the nearby museum too.  I would love to run a war game on this table!  Aztecs vs Mayans!

Anyway, that’s enough for tonight.  I have some more cultural pics of modern Mayans, and our harrowing hurricane adventure, but I’ll post that later.

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Published in: on March 22, 2011 at 10:48 pm  Comments (8)  
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8 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Awesome. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Great stuff! That model does indeed look infinitely gameable.

  3. Good stuff. The views from above really do convey how ‘heavenly’ it must feel to be that high off the ground.

    One of my source books mentioned that when first found, many of the tops of the pyramids were covered in Mica which is resistant to electricity.

    I wonder if the climate was different enough centuries ago in those areas: were the original inhabitants able to ‘look down’ on lightning and thunder from low riding storms?

    • That’s really interesting.

      They certainly get a good amount of rain to support jungles and fill the cenotes.

      I guess the mica could just be used to reflect light and make the top “glow,” but I like your idea about its use as an insulator! Reminds me of the mica hands and masks they sometimes find in mounds in north America. Decoration or protective gear?

      • I’m wondering if it was a priestly ‘trick’, or did they know something about ionization?

        …perhaps by using the inverse of lightning rod, the electrical storm’s output would avoid the temples and strike the grounds around them. Perhaps an agricultural benefit?

        • Those temples and ball courts also made all kind of acoustic tricks possible. I remember one tour guide mentioning that drummers beat logs in the courtyard and the echoes would sound like birds chirping; also standing at one ned of the ball court you could hear someone talking at regular conversational volume even though you’re a hundred+ feet away, etc. — they definitely planned for acoustic effects; it’s not a stretch to think they knew that mica warded off lighting too.

  4. Wow, that was very cool, thanks for sharing!

  5. […] away! That should give the party barely enough time to scout out the orc’s temple complex (Chitzen Itza would be a nice template) and plan and stage their daring […]


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