Chichen Itza’s “Centerpiece” – El Castillo

The history of Chichen Itza goes back to the classic period of Mayan civilization, running between 250 BC – 850 AD. Geographically, it ranged from Mexico through Guatemala, Belize, Honduras and El Salvador. During the first millennium AD, the Mayas reached levels of civilization rivalling those of ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome!! While they were superb astronomers, architect/builders, athletes and mathematicians, for some unfathomable reason they never discovered the wheel!!

In times when Chichen Itza flourished as a city, the Mayas formed a highly sophisticated society. Their elite worked in astronomy, mathematics, engineering and architecture, while the rest provided manpower to execute the plans.

Largest of Mayan cities, Chichen Itza was started around 400 AD, abandoned and returned to several times before the Toltecs arrived in 987 AD. During a period of southward expansion around  1000 AD, the aggressive Toltecs dominated over the Maya from the 11th to the 13th centuries, conquered the Itzas, introduced them to the practice of human sacrifice, and with their labor, rebuilt the city as a religious centre.

Everyone moved out by the 13th century, so when the Spaniards came in the 1500’s, they found crumbling buildings being devoured by the jungle.

El Castillo is a monumental representation of the Mayan calendar. There are 18 terraces on each side, the number of months in the Mayan year. There are four staircases, each with 91 steps, with one final step to the summit temple making 365 steps, one for each day of the year.


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