The mouth of the well in Mexico

“At the mouth of the well” sounds far more romantic when you give its Mayan name – Chichen Itza.

The name Chichen Itza refers to a Mayan City on the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico, between Valladolid and Merida.  It’s a large pre-Columbian archaeological site that was built by the Mayans that has become the second most visited site in Mexico.

Present on the site is a number of fine stone buildings dominated by the Temple of Kulkulkan, which is also known by its Spanish name El Castillo, The Castle.  Kulkulkan is a step pyramid, with stairways which run up each of the four sides of the pyramid.  Amazingly, during the Spring and Autumn (Fall) Equinoxes at the rising and setting of the sun, the corner of the structure casts a shadow in the shape of a plumed serpent, which represents Kukulcan, or Quetzalcoatl as it is also known, which runs along the west side of the north staircase. Also, at these times, the shadows from the corner tiers slither down the northern side of the pyramid with the sun’s movement to the serpent’s head at the base.

The name “at the mouth of the well” refers to a nearby natural sinkhole which would have provided water to the city.  There are many other temples and buildings to be seen at Chichen Itza, prominent among them is the Great Ball Court.  This game, which was similar to volleyball was played with a solid rubber ball which weighed about 4 kilograms (9 pounds).  In the most common version of the game the players struck the ball with their hips, although some versions allowed the use of forearms, rackets or bats.  To lose could have been quite dangerous as, during important ceremonies, losing players were offered up to the gods as human sacrifice.     

Chichen Itza is now  UNESCO World Heritage Site, and was voted as one of the Seven not so ancient Wonders of the World.  Most people who visit the site do so via Cancun, which is also a very popular tourist spot.  There are many different tours on offer to the site, as well as a evening Son et Lumiere, sound and light show, which recreates the golden days of Chichen Itza.

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