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7 curiosities of Chichén Itzá that you surely did not know

Updated: Nov 9, 2023

Since Chichén Itzá is one of the excursions in the Riviera Maya most demanded by tourists, we tell you 7 curiosities of Chichén Itzá, the most visited archaeological zone in Mexico after Teotihuacán.

1- World Heritage and within the 7 Wonders of the world

As you probably already know, the Chichén Itzá pyramid is one of the New 7 Wonders of the Modern World. But, contrary to what most people think, it is only the pyramid of Kukulkan that is included in this list, and not the area itself, known as Chichén Itzá.

2- Meaning name Chichén Itzá

The name of Chichén Itzá comes from the Mayan culture, which was the one that built this place. If we divide it, “Chi” (mouth), “Che'en” (well), “Itz” (wizard or sorcerer) and “Há” (water), its name literally means “the mouth of the well of water sorcerers ”.

It refers to the Sacred Cenote (Xtoloc), a large natural well that the Mayans considered one of the main entrances to Xibalbá, their underworld.

3- The cenotes were a place of sacrifice and an aquatic cemetery

There are different theories about the religious beliefs and the use of the Mayans of the cenotes.

On the one hand, there are those who believe that they were places of human sacrifice, especially of virgin women. These sacrifices were often for the God of the Sun (Itzamná), with the belief that the sun was born and died every day, and thus feed it and ensure its return to Earth.

Another belief is that they used the cenotes as a cemetery. Once the funeral ritual was celebrated, the bodies were thrown into the cenotes. This would explain the large number of human remains found at the bottom, of all ages.

What there was was a general agreement, and the purpose of all these rituals was to mediate before the Xibalbá entities to guarantee rain and good harvests.

But don't be afraid to go swimming in one of the cenotes on your tour to Chichén Itzá, these rituals are already out of style.

4- A drought between the years 800-900 A.D led them to abandon the place

To put you in the situation, experts in the evolution of cultures speak of the availability or scarcity of water as a recurring predominant aspect in the evolution of human civilizations.

Although it is not known to what extent the climate was the trigger for the fall of the Mayan empire, there are studies that affirm that this period was key to its subsequent disappearance.

The data shows that between the 9th and 10th centuries, in the Yucatan Peninsula, there was a prolonged drought that altered the Mayan ecosystem in the area. This drought is believed to have been intense enough to cause serious social changes and was possibly the beginning of the end for the Maya.

5- Spring Equinox

Every March 20, the spring equinox takes place, that is, a day in which day and night have the same length of time.

The Mayans, thanks to their great knowledge of astronomy, decided to orient the Temple of Kukulkan so that each spring equinox would be reflected in the temple.

If you have the opportunity to travel to Mexico, the shadows on one of its sides will reflect on its central stairs forming a serpent, which symbolizes the descent of the God in the form of a feathered serpent, Kukulkan.

It descends from heaven to Earth in a matter of minutes. According to Mayan beliefs, the snake was the union between the divine and the human.

6- The stairs of Kukulkan add up to 365 steps

Another example of the knowledge of astronomy of the Mayans is that the Temple of Kukulkan has four stairways, with 91 steps each, which add up to 364 in total. With the upper platform, there are 365 in total, like the days of the year. In total, the height of the Chichén Itzá pyramid is 30 meters.

Each step represented the days of the Haab -Mayan calendar-, which agrees perfectly with the calendar we use today, the Gregorian.

If you had planned to go through all these steps, we are sorry to tell you that since 2006 it is prohibited to climb. The wear and tear on the construction caused it to be decided to close this activity.

7- Perfect acoustics

Without a doubt one of our favorite Chichén Itzá curiosities. The constructions of the archaeological zone of Chichén Itzá have something in common, and it is their incredible acoustics.

For example, in The Ball Game, you can easily hear what is being said from one side of the field to the other. Despite its 139 meters in length, its walls allow this great acoustic effect. So be careful what you say...

As for the Temple of Kukulkan, the guides have relatively recently discovered by chance that the temple kept a secret regarding its acoustics. If you clap from the base of the pyramid, this sound goes up its stairs, finally bouncing off its top temple.

The result is a distorted echo called the song of the Quetzal, since the sound is very similar to the song of this sacred bird of the Mayans.

Now that you know all the curiosities of Chichén Itzá, are you already preparing your bags to visit this wonder left by the Mayans in Mexico?

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