Ancient Mayans: The Pyramid of Kukulkan

Ancient Mayans: The Pyramid of Kukulkan

Ancient Mayans | Beginning in 2,000 B.C., people who became the Maya farmed corn, beans, and chillies in the Central America regions that now comprise southern Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador.

Large city-states developed with glistening limestone-stepped pyramids and other precisely designed buildings and ball courts. Over time, the Maya created a highly developed culture that included a written language, as well as sophisticated astronomy and mathematical skills. The city-states in the southern regions declined around 900 A.D. The communities in the northern regions fell in the 1500s to the Spanish conquistadors and missionaries who fought and eventually conquered the Maya with the advantage of guns, horses and the transmission of diseases that wiped out more than half the population.

The victors burned the ancient Mayan textbooks and records. The jungle reclaimed the cities that have slowly been excavated during the past 75 years. In addition to the remains of hundreds of ancient Maya sites, three Mayan texts survive that include almanacks, horoscopes, calendars, mathematical and astronomical calculations. One of the largest Maya cities is Chichen Itza, located on the Yucatán Peninsula in southern Mexico. The area has underground rivers that come to the surface as cenotes, large natural wells. The Pyramid of Kukulkan (also known as El Castillo, a name given by the Spanish Conquistadors) is central to Chichen Itza, it was built over a pre-existing Temple between 800 and 900 AD.

Mayan Empire
Ancient Mayans

It is the biggest pyramid in Chichen Itza; at its base 53.3 meters wide on all four sides. It towers above the other monuments at 24 meters tall with a 6-meter temple on top of the highest platform. Before access to the throne room of the pyramid was restricted, you could climb to the top and, on a clear day, see the top of the grand pyramid at the nearby ruin site of Ek Balam. The Temple of Kukulkan is a masterpiece of architecture and astronomy.

The four faces of the temple have stairways with 91 steps each, which makes 364 steps total. Combined with a base platform on top of the pyramid that unites all four stairways, it comes to 365, the exact number of days in a solar year. The number of sections on each side of the temple is also symbolical: 9 steps of the pyramid are divided in half by a stairway, which equals a number of months (18) in Mayan calendar. Moreover, 52 stone reliefs on each face of the sanctuary represent one calendar cycle consisting of 52 years. There is also a small temple with four entrances for sacrificial rituals on top of the pyramid.

Ancient Mayans
Ancient Mayans

Apart from the Temple of Kukulkan, Chichen Itza preserved seven “stadiums” for ball games, the Group of Thousand Columns forming a giant rectangular, the Sacred Cenote (also known as the Sacred Well), and many other interesting structures. The ancient city is recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In 2007 it was also named one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. Our photo panoramas will help you get acquainted with this miracle. The Maya built majestic stone cities centred around pyramid-temples like Kukulkan, where people would go to worship their gods and participate in ceremonies timed to their highly sophisticated calendar.

It was probably at these gatherings that Maya priests or other leaders may have clapped their hands to invoke the quetzal’s call. When a clapping noise rings out, the temple’s high and narrow limestone steps act as separate sound scatterers, bouncing back a chirp-like tone that declines in frequency. In other words, reflections from the treads of the staircase are responsible for the echo being altered. The reason that a chirp like a bird is produced is that of geometry. The time between later reflections is longer than early reflections causing the frequency of the echo to rapidly drop by about an octave.

A small pyramid structure was discovered inside the temple of Kukulkan in the legendary city of Chichen Itza

The discovery was made by US and Mexican archaeologists working in the temple complex using the electrical resistivity tomography method. This is a third such structure discovered within the Kukulkan temple as the presence of a second pyramid within the main structure was confirmed by archaeologists back in 1940. Geoffrey Braswell, a professor of anthropology at the University of California at San Diego, pointed out that while the archaeologists may have indeed found a new structure, the pyramid in question may, in fact, be the one that was already found by researchers in 1940s.

He also likened the Kukulkan pyramid to a Russian nesting doll, with each of the temple’s layer encapsulating another, but pointed out that the bottom layer may, in fact, conceal more than one structure within.
And while the newly discovered structure has already been mapped, it remains unclear exactly when archaeologists will attempt to excavate it, or what they might find inside. 

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