In 2007, we visited Cancun on the Yucatan Peninsula. This holiday holds many happy memories, and I was looking through the photos yesterday. We stayed at the Club Med resort, and much of the holiday was spent relaxing like this,
but we did go out to do a bit of exploring too. Our day trip to the Mayan ruins at Chichén Itzá, was really awesome, and something which I’ll never forget.
The Maya who settled in Chichén (Spanish for ‘the mouth of the well’), around 550AD, are credited with an advanced and brilliant knowledge of astronomy, The most famous structure which is believed to have been built before 800 AD, is the Temple of Kulkulkan, renamed ‘El Castillo’ by the Spanish. This seventy-eight hundred foot tall pyramid, is actually a solar calendar with which the Maya worked out exactly when to plant their crops. There are ninety-one steps on each side, and another step up to the roof altar, and every day, the shadows fall upon a different step.
Another of the main attractions, is ‘El Caracol’ (conch shell, or snail). This is a giant observatory dome where many rituals and celebrations were performed. The dome has numerous windows, and stars can be seen through different windows on specific days of the year. This structure is quite a wonder of both astronomy and engineering, because as you can imagine, creating a stone dome with windows at such accurately precise points, must have taken an enormous amount of time and skill.
Here is the entrance to the ‘Great Ball Court’, and the building in which the dignitaries would most probably sit to watch the games.
There are many ball courts in Mexico, as they were an important part of every Mayan city, and were designed much like today’s soccer pitches. Raised stone hoops, 23 feet above the ground, were placed at each end, and the Maya would play a game which was a sort of cross between soccer and basketball.
They used a small, hard rubber ball, and the players had to keep the ball in the air, using any part of their bodies, except for hands, feet and calves, the aim being to get the ball through the stone hoops. This was an extremely brutal blood sport and they played to the death. Legend has it that the captain of the winning team, presented his head to the losing captain, who then decapitated him. While this may seem a strange reward, the Maya believed this to be the ultimate honour. The winning captain was getting a direct ticket to heaven instead of having to go through the thirteen steps that the Maya believed they had to go through in order to reach Paradise. I don’t know how true this is, but if were me, I’d make sure I was on the losing side. That wouldn’t work either though, as I also read that the losing team was sacrificed to the gods. So either way, you couldn’t win.
To the north-east of the pyramid, is the ‘Templo de los Guerreros’, the temple of the warriors complex, which consists of a large stepped pyramid fronted and flanked by rows of carved columns depicting warriors.
There are a thousand of these columns, and I couldn’t resist putting this photo in, because it’s not every day that a person gets to play hide and seek around Mayan ruins, is it?
It was a wonderful visit, as there was so much to see, and although I have dozens of photos, I’ve only shared a few of the more interesting ones with you. I hope you enjoyed looking at them.
Have a great weekend, everyone. Chat again soon.