Names were given to the columns depending on their location : you will hear about the north columns or the north-east columns, etc…. Many of its columns and pillars offer nice sculptures with diverse designs. You can see a haut-relief with a personage richly arrayed with feathers and a nasal ring. This is a good example of the extravagant clothing worn by the governors and priests. The upper class wore also cotton jackets adorned with feathers, sandals and jewels made of jade, obsidian, shells and jaguar skins.
It could be that the columns have been reformed with stucco and coloured paintings. They also support a border of Chaac masks and rounded shields. One counts 16 columns in a row except for the first which is comprised of only 15 and all on a surface of 50 metres. Currently, their height is around 3 metres which also represents the distance between each column. The oldest column can be found in the west section, which is also the furthest away: the columns continue for a distance of metres.
The last of them being in a cylindrical form and devoid of their capitals, they are also divided into four lines which would have supported the lower vaults. Left photo : Group of a Thousand Columns north side. The platform of the Jaguars and the Eagles. This rectangular platform has a stairway ending with a large feathered serpent head on each side. The walls are decorated with panels with bas-reliefs representing eagles and jaguars devouring human hearts. The upper cornice is adorned with lying warriors. This is situated on the Venus platform.
The wall of the skulls tzompantli We can find the life worship through the death on the walls of this platform, which is covered with skulls. It is a stone representation of the monuments made with human skulls impaled on stakes tzompantli.
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The Mesoamericans sometimes displayed the cut heads of their enemies. The stone representation of this ritual is called the tzompantli. It is probably here that the heads of the sacrificed victims were displayed. On a slope panel, there is a panel in the middle of two cornices; the upper one is decorated with bas-reliefs skulls set on stakes; the cornices are surmounted by serpents and eagles devouring human hearts as well as warriors and feathered serpents.
This shows the influence from Central Mexico. Right and below picturec : wall of the skulls. In total, sculpted skeletons have been recorded on the high-reliefs. It is named after a very ornamental jaguar fresco. In each corner, one can clearly see a jaguar by night and an eagle by day eating a human heart, symbolizing the offering to the sun.
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Right picture : Temple of Jaguars next to the Ball Court. The upper panel is comprised of two feathered serpents with intertwined tails and jaguars in the middle. The temple was named after the jaguars which walk in opposite directions towards three shields, they are symbols of war and intertwined serpents can be seen on the lower border. Behind the temple, you find the small Annex at ground level : it is the only room embellished with beautiful designs. T he pillars highlight three entrances; in the middle one, there is a jaguar shaped stone throne.
The jaguar was the animal symbolizing the power of the Mayan governors. The three entrances are highlighted by two large serpent shaped columns the tails used as the bases of the columns. The Ball Court The Ball Court is surrounded by two parallel walls with the characteristic stone score rings tachtli. The game was a mix between basket-ball and hockey; two teams were fighting on the court; the goal was to put a hard rubber ball through a ring cemented on the center of the wall.
The players could hit the ball with their head, elbows, hips and knees only. The game had sacred significance, probably linked to the sun. The losing or winning? A fresco, at the bottom of one wall, explains the sense of the ceremonial. One of the players is seen, after having beheaded a player of the opposite team, holding a flint knife in one hand and the head of the victim in the other hand.
The blood spurting from the headless body takes the shape of snakes and one of them is converted into plants covered with flowers and fruits. Life emerges from death. This includes the two temples situated to the North and to the South. It is the largest tlachtli in all of Meso-america. The lower walls are decorated with emblems most probably originating from the Gulf Coast. These score rings were decorated with designs inspired by the protective deities as well as the astral and mythological symbology of this game. This edifice is located in the northern wall of the Ball Court.
On the back wall, there is a curious carving of a bearded man. This temple has also taken its name from the strange bearded character that is a part of the depicted scene. The temple rests on three staggered levels which are placed on a platform of 14 metres in length and 8 metres in width, including the stairway. At the entrance the six pillars are carved with their names in hieroglyphs.
Some of them are of great interest and we advise you not to miss this part of the city during your visit. This structure measures 9 metres in height and is comprised of nine staggered terraces. It is a small recently restored pyramid in which seven tombs containing offerings were discovered : shells, bells as well as rock crystal and jade figurines. The big serpents and the partly restored adornment of the reclining panels, as well as the altars lined in front of the main stairway, reveal Toltec style. The square altar could be the draft of the platform of Venus which is on the main plaza.
Some steps are built into the walls forming a stairway leading to a natural cave symbolizing the passage to the world of the dead. Originally, the structure was part of a complex monument which linked up to the Xtoloc Cenote. The Deer House This building was named after the deer painted on one of the inner walls. It is a small temple with three rooms. It is built on a platform with rounded angles, accessible via a central stairway. In the back, a basement was used as a tribune for a small ball court whose presence is marked by a few sculpted stones.
This temple dominates other structures more or less in ruins, among them the house of the deer in the north. It is also called the Red House because of a reddish strip on the gates.
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This structure is the best and the structure that has been conserved the most amongst the 4 other structures that surround the main square of the Central Group. It is longer due to the vestibule, which is accessible via three entrances. The face of the structure is of great simplicity and is composed of smooth walls with 2 moldings and 2 ridges for decoration in the main part.
The oldest of these moldings is situated in the central area and the second built behind the first exhibits the Chaac masks.
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This temple still overlooks other more or less ruined structures, including the House of the Deer at the North. Some are of great interest and not to be missed while visiting the site. The first pyramid is the High Priest Tomb also called the Ossuary. It is a small pyramid just reconditioned that contains human bones. The partly reconstituted big snakes and the decoration are from the Toltec style.
The altars lined in front of the main stairway also. The squared one seems to be the draft of the platform of Venus on the great plaza. The windows, located at the top, allowed for the observation of the stars due to their very precise orientations.
On the right, you will see the cruciform map of a ritual bath temazcal. It belongs to the transition period between and It is made of an all in one piece rectangular platform with a sloping panel surmounted by a 6 m high cornice with rounded angles. This platform is 67 m long from north to south and 52 m wide from east to west.
The ramps of the stairway are carved with intertwined serpents. On this platform, they built a circular base, with a diameter of 11m and a height of 3. Opposite this, a terrace of 20 metres long and 6. This structure was covered by another terrace surrounded by stone incense burners shaped as human skulls; the cylinder-shaped construction of the observation room was built on top of these terraces. If you examine the tower, you can notice that, originally, the construction was made of a single structure with a spiral stairway that gave the structure its name.
The stairway led to the observatory room. Then, with the construction of two other bases, they added another room and a terrace surrounding the tower.
The observatory is a small room with arrow slits from where they observed the stars. The Mayan astronomers were able to define the position of different stars.
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They devoted themselves to the movements of these stars. After many precise astronomical and mathematical calculations, they perfected a solar calendar, Haab, with days divided into in 18 months of 20 days each plus 5 extra days and a ritual calendar, Tzolkin, that predicted the life of the population and their destiny; They used both calendars simultaneously searching for the harmony of the universe and moving through the repetition of cycles at the time. The Observatory Tower is a circular room with arrow sits from where the Mayan astronomers studied the celestial phenomenon.
Their astronomical knowledge such as the distinguishing of the cycles of the sun, the moon and Venus, the calculation of the solar eclipses and the movement of the stars, including the Pleiades, called Tzab, was obtained using basic instruments and specific constructions such as the "Caracol". The astronomy was linked to the conception of the Mayan world.
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