Mexico Adventure Thread: Mayan Ruins


My name is Robert R

I have recently joined Free Atlantis, but some of you know me from SQV where I wrote under the name @TearGasBreakfast or from Gab where I use the screen name @ILoveAmericaNews

Here is a thread to introduce myself.

My plan is for this thread to have 4 parts, 1 part each day for the next 4 days:

1. Chichén Itzá
2. Ek' Balam
3. Cobá
4. Tulum

This will be my first time posting most of these photos. Enjoy!

Mayan Ruins: Chichén Itzá

Most of the historical material accompanying my Mayan photo journal comes from the Action Tour Guide: Mayan Ruins of Mexico Self-Guided Walking Tour Bundle

It cost $14.99, included all four ruins, and I found it to be an outstanding resource.

Tonight I will be starting with Chichén Itzá.

1. Selfie at the Temple of Kukulcán ("El Castillo")

Mayan Ruins: Chichén Itzá

The Temple of Kukulcán at the center of Chichén Itzá was built to honor the Mayan snake God, Kukulcán.

It represents Snake Mountain, the place where Mayan's believed life first began.

Once a year, on winter solstice, the shadow of the setting sun creates an illusion of a snake's body connected to the dramatic heads at the base.

There are 2 snake columns in the upper temple. They represent the living cord between Mayan rulers and their Gods.

Mayan Ruins: Chichén Itzá

The pyramid is not a tomb, like the ones in Egypt, but a giant calendar.

There are 91 steps on each side of the pyramid combined with the platform on top to make 365.

It has 9 stages split by a staircase on each side to represent the 18 months of the Mayan Calendar.

Each side has 52 panels equal to the number of solar years in a Mayan Calendar cycle.

The temple is built over an older temple. Construction occurred between 600 AD and 1200 AD.

Mayan Ruins: Chichén Itzá

The ancient Mayans were masters of acoustics

If you stand in front of the stairs, and clap your hands, the echo mimics the chirping sound of the sacred Quetzal bird.

To the Mayans, the chirping echo meant the could hear their Gods.

Mayan Ruins: Chichén Itzá

Do you like sports? I loved sports until they all went woke!

So did the ancient Mayans.

Chichén Itzá contains 13 ball courts.

The Great Ball Court is the largest and best preserved in all of Mesoamerica.

It is shaped like the letter "I," and it is a little bigger than 2 football fields.

There are observation stands on both sides of the court, and a platform for the royalty at the far end from the pyramid.

Mayan Ruins: Chichén Itzá

The Mayan ball game was played with rubber balls that weighed around 20 lbs.

Players wore leather protective gear on the arms, legs, and hips.

The objective of the game was to launch the ball through stone rings mounted on both sides of the court without the use of your hands.

1. The rings are composed of intertwined serpents.
2. Royal Platform
3. The full length of the court
4. Snakes everywhere!

Mayan Ruins: Chichén Itzá

Both sides of the ball court are decorated with intricate murals that were brightly painted in ancient times.

The murals depict the warrior class. Each Mayan warrior was adopted into either the jaguar or the eagle clan. (More later)

1. I think it's a fire-breathing skull with a mohawk. Yeah, they definitely had some powerful drugs.

2 & 3: Eagle and Jaguar warriors

4. If you look closely, you can see a kneeling warrior about to be beheaded.

Mayan Ruins: Chichén Itzá

Tzompantil: Wall of Skulls

There is a Toltec structure next to the ball court called the wall of skulls.

The heads of sacrificed Mayans were stacked on wooden posts on top of this platform.

Imagine how much that must have stunk in the hot weather of southern Mexico!

Mayan Ruins: Chichén Itzá

The platform Eagles and Jaguars

This ceremonial platform is located on the main mall in between the Wall of Skulls and the platform of Venus.

Mayan warriors were separated into two orders whose jobs were to capture victims for sacrifice: the eagles and the jaguars.

The eagles used bows and range weapons. The Jaguars, who had higher status than the eagles, engaged the enemy hand to hand.

Mayan Ruins: Chichén Itzá

The Platform of Venus:

The Mayans called Venus Nohoch Ek' (Great Star) or Chak Ek' (Red Star)

Venus is the most peculiar "star" in the sky. It's extremely bright, and it moves in a different pattern than other stars.

The rise and fall of Venus in the night sky last 263 days roughly the same as human gestation. The Mayans put special significance on this fact.

Mayan Ruins: Chichén Itzá

The Platform of Venus:

The Mayans believed in a version of the Trinity. They used a three part representation of God: human, feathered snake, and jaguar.

Notice the carving. It shows a human face, inside a jaguar's mouth. It also has eagle's wings and claws along with the forked tongue of a snake.

Chichen Itza is taking longer than I thought it would, and I'm getting tired.

I'm only around half way through. I'm going to stop for the night, and I will pick back up tomorrow.

That means I'll probably push back my schedule on the other ruins by one day each.

Mayan Ruins: Chichén Itzá

Check this out. I'm watching a lecture from the University of Pennsylvania, and they are analyzing the murals of the ball court.

They just described a portion of the picture I posted earlier. I thought it was a ball player waiting to be decapitated, but it's not.

It's someone whose head was just chopped off, and now snakes are springing from his neck hole.


This is the lecture I mentioned in the most recent post in this thread.

"Great Wonders: Chichen Itza: An Alien City in the Maya Lowlands"

The Origins & Collapse of the Preclassic Maya in the Mirador Basin, Guatemala

"According to Richard Hansen, the concentration of large cities in the Mirador Basin in the Middle and Late Preclassic periods (circa 1000 B.C. to A.D. 150) led to the construction of the largest pyramids on the planet, the largest ancient Maya cities, the first 'freeway' system in the world and the first true state-level society in the Western Hemisphere."

Mayan Ruins: Chichén Itzá

I always forget about my videos when I get into a groove while editing photos.

This clip shows the Wall of Skulls, the Platform of Eagles and Jaguars, and El Castillo in the background.

Mayan Ruins: Chichén Itzá

This clip gives a good look at one of the murals on the Platform the Eagles and Jaguars

Mayan Ruins: Chichén Itzá

Most people that visit Chichen Itza never see this part. I didn't on my first trip there.

The entire complex is built on top of a gigantic manmade plateau. This photo shows one of the few places it has been excavated.

The Mayans rebuilt the complex of Chichen Itza at least 3 times.

There is a scale model of the main complex built nearby. (photos later in thread)

Giza and Machu Picchu were built on top of massive terraformed projects too.

This is another video from the University of Pennsylvania Museum. This is what I'm watching this morning while I work my way through my photos.

"The Classic Maya Collapse: New Evidence on a Great Mystery"

Mayan Ruins: Chichén Itzá

There are 5 cenote in Chichen Itza complex. 4 are open, and one is directly under the main temple, but this is the most important one.

The Mayan's believed their rain God Chaac lived in this specific pool.

There is a lot of evidence that this cenote is why the Mayan built Chichen Itza at this location.

The "Itza" were the people that lived in this area.

Chichen Itza literally translates to "at the mouth of the well of Itza"

Mayan Ruins: Chichén Itzá

Mayans commonly used human sacrifice as a means to appease the rain God Chaac.

Young girls were the preferred victims, and the remains of many of them were found in this cenote. as well as other precious objects.

Cenote are formed when a celestial body punctures a hole through the limestone that forms the surface level of the Yucatan.

This particular cenote was formed by the asteroid/comet that killed off the dinosaurs 65 million years ago.

Mayan Ruins: Chichén Itzá

Sacbe: White Road

The Mayan people did not use wheels or have a domesticated beast of burden. They built elaborate highways all over the Yucatan Peninsula that they called Sacbe, "sac" means white, and "be" means road.

The roads were constructed from layers of rocks. They were painted with a healthy layer of white limestone cement on top, so the Mayans could travel at night.

Sacbe One stretches from the main temple complex to the Holy Cenote.

Mayan Ruins: Chichén Itzá

Temple of the Warriors

The Temple of the Warriors is a 3 layer temple with around 200 columns in front of it. Each column is covered with intricate carvings of Toltec warriors.

There is a temple of the jaguar covered with carvings of the rain God Chaac on the top of the structure that is similar to the one on top of El Castillo.

Like many Mayan structures, this building is built on top of an older construction called the Tomb of Chacmool.


Mayan Ruins: Chichén Itzá

Temple of the Warriors

Each of the 200 columns have a different unique Toltec warrior covered on it.

It's kind of like a hall of fame...

· · Web · 1 · 4 · 3

Mayan Ruins: Chichén Itzá

The Hall of a Thousand Columns:

This area was covered with thatch roofs in ancient times, and it is thought to have been a massive marketplace.

There's some debate on that from people who claim that was a Spanish invention.

It used to be open to the public. Many places in Chichen Itza were open when I visited 15 years ago, but are closed now. It's kind of a shame, but it's probably a good thing in the long-term for future generations.

Mayan Ruins: Chichén Itzá

Did you know that there is a miniature version walking distance from the main complex at Chichen Itza that is almost exactly a scale model of El Castillo?

In fact, there are smaller versions of all the main buildings at Chichen Itza built nearby.

This structure is called The Ossuary: The High Priest's Grave

Mayan Ruins: Chichén Itzá

Here's another look at the platform that sits under Chichen Itza.

The construction above ground is mind blowing, but the construction of the platform was a much larger project.

There are people that think the smaller versions of the main buildings, which are not on the platform, were a practice run.

Others think they are symbolic of looping time.

Every major building in the complex was built at least 3 times, growing larger each time.

Mayan Ruins: Chichén Itzá

The Ossuary, also known as the High Priest's Grave is a miniature version of El Castillo.

There are 3 platforms to the east of the Ossuary. When combined, they resemble the great plaza. Either the great plaza was modeled after the Ossuary or the other way around.

Between the snake columns, on top of the pyramid, is a shaft that leads to a 12 meter deep cavern. 7 tombs were found in the cavern in addition to jade, treasure, and animal remains.

Mayan Ruins: Chichén Itzá

El Caracol: The Obsevatory

Raids and wars were timed by the Mayans according to the movement of Venus.

Inside the Observatory is a spiral staircase. Along the staircase are slits cut into the walls that only let light in a couple of times per year

The Mayans used the slits as a method of calculating the exact time and day.

The main tower reached above the thick jungle canopy to facilitate star gazing.

Mayan Ruins: Chichén Itzá

The Red House: Casa Colorado

This relatively plain structure holds one significant distinction. Glyphs inside the building were the key to deciphering the Mayan alphabet.

Mayan Ruins: Chichén Itzá

Las Iglasia: The Church and the Nunnery

1. It is speculated that this building was named The Church by the Spanish because it sits next to the Nunnery.

2-4. Las Monjas: The Nunnery

This is one of the largest buildings at Chichen Itza. It is called the Nunnery because it is thought to have housed maiden priestess while they prepared themselves to be sacrificed.

Mayan Ruins: Chichén Itzá

I first visited Chichen Itza in 2004. I was struck by a couple of difference this time.

1. It felt tiny when in 2004 it seemed huge! I had recently been to Egypt, and in comparison the ruins in Mexico looked miniature to me.

2. Women wear a lot less clothes now, and it seems like they all have a boyfriend/husband behind them filming them for Snapchat.

I hope you enjoyed my thread.

I'm going to try to do Ek' Balam tomorrow.

End of Thread

This is the story of the person that found the oldest Mayan murals ever discovered.

@ArnGrimR asked me yesterday if I found Mayan art to be morbid.

This film shows some examples of art from a home. It includes playful images of a king playing the flute, brothers sitting together, and mathematical tables.

Perhaps the reason we think Mayan art is morbid is because we have mainly excavated their temples and not their homes.

EDIT: I misinterpreted 2 images

Robert, I am thrilled you are here! Oh, how I have missed your wonderful travel threads and beautiful pictures. An added bonus is that the places are all locations on my bucket list. Looking forward to the upcoming 3 locations.

Thank you! It feels good to be missed. lol

I'm going to finish Chichen Itza tonight. I'm around 80% through.

Then hopefully I get to Ek' Balam tomorrow. It was a really cool ruins that was only recently opened to the public

Half the main pyramid is still covered in trees. It felt like how I imagined Chichen Itza must have felt 100 years ago.


Fascinating read, and great images and videos! Thanks for posting all this, with the stories and explanations!

Having been there, would you agree or disagree with the characterization of the Maya art as rather morbid?

That's a hard one.

The Mayans thought time was a series of loops.

They clearly had a very different idea of death and time than we do. I mean, they sacrificed the winners of the ball game!

The entire complex at Itza is dedicated to life, death, and rebirth.

I also know that I am looking at it through the eyes of someone that believes that every life is unique, special, and every living person carries a spark of divinity.

So Yes, it's morbid as can be to me, and I love it!

I am going to do a thread today on Ek' Balam. Unlike Chichen Itza, I don't remember the art at Ek' Balam being morbid.

Chichen Itza was the center of a death cult that practiced human sacrifice, whereas Ek' Balam was built by one king as a place to live.

They were contemporaries of each other, and they are geographically close to each other.

I will keep a close eye out for examples of the differences in the art between them.

Of course, I was there 6 months ago, so I could wrong.


You-a like-a Chichen Itza.

@Phil no like-a eats-a chicken.

Small-a world-a, no?

In the mid 80s my wife and I went to the new resort town of Cancun. Literally carved out of the jungle. We drove to the end of the main blvd still under construction. Seeing vehicle tracks going off in the jungle and being in a rental jeep, naturally we kept going. Not far down this "path" was a small stone pyramid like structure still untouched completly overgrown with vines and a tree on top! Locals said construction had been stopped till they figured out a way around it.

I bet that was a really cool experience. Cancun looks just like Miami now.

I have read that over 95% of Mayan ruins are still unexcavated including biggest complexes the Mayans ever built that are located in Belize and Guatemala.

Both Ek' Balam and Coba have huge sections that are not excavated yet.

I'm going to working on a Ek' Balam thread tonight, and a Coba thread tomorrow.

I photographed unexcavated areas of both complexes, and I will include those photos in my threads.

@TearGasBreakfast was there 15 years ago with our then teenagers. Had a private tour guide and got to see some small villages too. An eye opener for the kids...

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