Latin America's ancient civilisations: Mayans
In the first of the series, we delve into the past to discover the ancient civilisations of Latin America, starting with the…
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Chichen Itza is a world-famous Mayan archaeological site in the Yucatan Peninsula, it is remarkably well-preserved.
Chichen Itza is the most visited of all the Mayan sites, and is probably the best kept. The principal architects were actually the Toltecs, who arrived in the Yucatan in the late 10th century and so many of the important buildings bear little evidence of classical Mayan refinements. The buildings were built on an impressive scale and the area has been well manicured for the ease of its visitors.
Twice a year, a startling phenomena occurs, which demonstrates both the startling ingenuity of the Mayan people and the importance of astronomical forces and the lunar calendar in their society. El Castillo is a huge pyramid in the centre of the archaeological site and the most photographed structure here. At sunset on each Spring and Autumn equinox, its perfectly designed steps cast shadowy triangles onto the side of the staircase, joining together to create the astonishing illusion of a huge snake (a sacred Maya animal) slithering downwards, until it connects with the large stone serpent head statue at the bottom.
Visitors to Chichen Itza can stay at one of the nearby hotels or haciendas, affording the opportunity to visit at quieter and cooler times of the day, or equally arrive by car from Merida or Playa del Carmen.
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