Monday, September 11, 2006

Riviera Maya Journal 2 #5 - Chichen Itza

"Very soon we saw rising high above the plain the Castillo of Chichen. In half an hour we were among the ruins of this ancient city, with all the great buildings in full view, casting prodigious shadows over the plain and presenting a spectacle which, even after all that we had seen, once more excited in us emotions of wonder."
The above description appears in the diaries of John L. Stephens, a writer who visited Chichen Itza in 1841. Stephens and his companions must have been intrepid explorers, for to reach Chichen in those days was difficult indeed. The heat, insects, jungle and scarcity of fresh water are just a few factors that modern-day visitors don't often consider.

Various other expeditions traveled to the ruins after Stephens' diaries were published, and in 1895 the amateur achaeologist Edward H. Thompson began what would become a 30-year examination of the site. As part of his explorations, Thompson dredged the first artifacts out of the Sacred Cenote. From 1924 to 1944, the Mexico government excavated and restored the Temple of Warriors and a number of other buildings at Chichen. In the 1960's the Sacred Cenote was dredged again, this time under the supervision of Mexico's National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH).

Today, Chichen Itza is the most visited of the major Maya archaelogical sites. Because it's only a short trip from Cancun by car, many visitors make the trip here. Unfortunately, deterioration has led to the famous pyramid, El Castillo, becoming unsafe for climbing. Still, a few hours on the grounds are well worth the trip. Chichen's excavated ruins include temples, palaces, markets, baths, and ballcourts. And the Sacred Cenote is easily accessible for viewing.
-Larry Widen


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