Chichen Itza and its Temple of Kulkucan (El Castillo) may be one of the best preserved and well-known Mayan sites in the Yucatan region of Mexico. It is designated as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. It is quite large - about two and a half square miles. It contains a religious section and a scientific section, including an observatory. Astronomy was very important to the Mayas for understanding their world, including the seasons for planting and harvest.
The Temple of Kulkucan dominates the site. It is 80 feet high with 91 steps on each side. Four sides times 91 steps equals 364 steps. Add one more for the top platform and it equals 365. What else equals 365?
Right -- there are 365 days in a year. They also designed the temple so that on the equinox (when day and night are equal) the sun hitting it would appear to be a serpent going down the corner ending at a sculpture of a serpent head at the base. Very cool -- and a great example the influence of astronomy on their culture and architecture! The temple is not solid. Inside is a second smaller temple of similar design.
Why do you think they built temples so tall? Share your ideas in the comments.
Chichen Itza also has one of the largest examples of a Mayan ball court. This game was played on ceremonial occasions. Teams competed using a large (4 pound) solid rubber ball like the one Mrs. Clark is holding in the photo below. They had to put it through a stone hoop high on the side wall of the court using only the body above the knees (no hands or feet.) Players stayed on the ground and the captain played on a higher platform. The game ended when the ball went through the hoop. At the end unfortunately, someone was sacrificed. There is some debate whether it was the winning captain, the loser, or someone else.