|Fig. 1 Chichén Itzá|
|Fig. 2 Chichén Itzá, El Castillo|
I found Chichén Itzá to be full of mystique. It was breathtaking in its size, scope and beauty. When combined with the sight of vendors, some dressed in traditional garb, crafting and selling original Maya art along the pathways, I felt like I was transported to another place and time; one that I was only partially familiar with as a result of my children's repeated viewings of Dreamwork's Road to El Dorado.
|Fig. 3 Chichén Itzá, ball court|
|Fig. 4 Chichén Itzá, ball court hoop|
Many of their beliefs were based on cosmography (the study and representation of the heavens and earth), mythology and even magic. While the Maya have been committed to safekeeping their ancestors' cultural heritage, many of their historical artifacts were unfortunately destroyed in the 16th century during the Spanish conquest. We can still glean a lot of knowledge from the ruins on sites like Chichén Itzá. For example, the structure, El Caracol, is believed to have been an observatory for the study of astronomy, a field the Maya were quite advanced in.
|Fig. 5 serpent head, base of El Castillo|
|Fig. 6 Relief of Plumed Serpent|
Chichén Itzá's Aztec influence is exemplified in The Platform of the Skulls (fig. 7), known as Tzompanti, which is an Aztec word (Chichén Itzá tour, 2012). It was quite shocking to walk along side the wall and view the many carvings of heads, knowing that this platform was the one used to place the heads of sacrificial victims. As is the case with all humankind since our existence, the Maya sought to relay their knowledge and history. The use of animals and symbols in pictographs, reliefs and sculptures made it possible for the Maya to document their story. In the Temple of One Thousand Warriors (fig. 8), for example, each carved column represents a warrior. The Maya also chronicled their beliefs in complex, painted glyphs, which will be featured in Part II of Mexican Art and Archaeology.
|Fig. 8 Temple of Thousand Warriors|
|Fig. 7 Wall of Skulls|