Chichen Itza

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The primary centre of power in the northern Yucatan during the Early PostClassic Period. Although there is a PreClassic occupation and Chichen Itza functioned as a minor ceremonial centre in the Classic Period, its major occupation was between clOOO and 1250. From historical sources it seems likely that the Itza (see also Cozumel) arrived in 918 and were responsible for the early structures, some of which are in the Puuc style, for example the High Priest’s Grave, the inner structures of the Castillo and the Caracol (the Observatory). There is a good deal of confiision over who the Itza were and how they relate to the Toltec, but they were probably a Mexican-influenced Putun group. The arrival of the Toltecs at Chichen Itza is coincident with the banishment of Quetzalcoatl from Tula in 987; indeed, representations of the feathered serpent abound after this time. This second building phase, although clearly Toltec-inspired (several buildings are markedly similar to structures at Tula) also incorporates strong Mayan elements. At the centre of the site is the Castillo or temple-PYRAMiD of Kulkulkan, the Maya equivalent of Quetzacoatl; this is linked by a causeway to the nearby Sacred Cenote. Other major structures include the Temple of the Warriors (in front of which stands a Chac-mool), large ‘dance platforms’, the Group of a Thousand Columns, the Temple of the Jaguars and, at 150 metres long, the largest ball court in Mesoamerica. Bas-relief carvings on a massive skull rack (tzompantli) shows the ball game to be associated with scenes of sacrifice. Relief carvings with themes of conquest and violence abound, and representations of Maya warriors submitting to Toltec warriors have been found on gold discs recovered from the Sacred Cenote. The terminal date for Chichen Itza is uncertain but the chronicles indicate either 1187 or 1227 as the time of the disappearance of the Toltec. Certainly by the mid-13th century power had shifted to the Late PostClassic centre at Mayapan.

The Macmillan dictionary of archaeology, Ruth D. Whitehouse, 1983Copied