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Chichen Itza and the Temple of Kukulcan

One of the New Seven Wonders of the World.

Chichen Itza is an impressive Mayan site from the Post Classic Mayan era. It is easily reachable from Cancun. A Coach journey of about 1-2 hours costs anywhere from $60 through to $100 (depending on operator) The air-conditioned coaches get you there in a deal of comfort. The most notable building among many is the Pyramid known as the Temple of Kukulcan (also spelt Kukulkan. Two sides of the pyramid have been restored. Or, more accurately the masonary has been restored. Originally the steps would have been stucco'd and decoratively painted. Very clever design by very clever people over a 1000 years ago have left some impressive acoustic affects. These show a sophisicated understanding of mathematics and sonics. Even today, when we are dealing with what is really the skeleton of a very old city complex, these effects are surprisingly effective.

It is believed that the "chirping echo" one gets from clapping at the base of the pyramid is a deliberate design detail of the builders. The steps give multiple reflections of the impulse from the clap. These multiple reflections, each with a short time difference give rise to the perception of a chirp.

The chirp resembles the sound of the now endangered Quetzl bird. This bird was sacred to the Maya. Even more amazingly, if you stand directly in front of the Pyramid of Kukulcan and clap, not only can you hear the reflection off the Pyramid but there is also another echo off the steps of the Temple of the Warriors that sounds like a rattle snake. Get your position right and you will hear the chirp, resembling the call of the Quetzl bird closely followed by the faint rattle of a rattle snake. Both the quetzl bird and the snake were scared to the Maya.

The huge ball court holds other fascinating acoustic effects. The walls act like a acoustic waveguide and a softly spoken sentence at on end may be heard at the other, a distance of over 500 feet.

The ancient Mayan ballgame is an enigma. Little is known about its rules or play and yet, in its day, it must have been immensely popular. The remains of over 1500 ballgame courts have been found throughout central America. These ball courts are all remarkably similar, although size and some aspects of the shape vary. Most have sloping walls and are significantly smaller then the ball court at Chichen Itza. The ball court at Chichen Itza is the largest found so far. It is also only one of two that has been found with vertical walls below the goal rings.

The El Caracol is so named due to the spiral stone staicase set within its turret. The El Caracol was an an observatory and it is precisely aligned to the vernal equinox. The Mayans had an extremely sophisicated kmowledge of celestial bodies. They calculated the movement of the planet venus with extreme accuracy. They had great ability in both mathematics and astronomy yet never developed a full size wheeled vehicle or produced metals. They were essentially a stone age culture.

The main part of the building that makes up the Observatory can still be entered and explored.

Chichen Itza is now a World Heritage site and The Temple of Kukulcan has been voted to be one of the new Seven Wonders of the World. It hardly needs any more recommendation. Chichen Itza site also has a number of other very important buildings besides the Pyramid, Ball Court and Observatory. The main complaint from many people is that they simply do not get enough time at the site to do it justice!

Chichen Itza is without doubt an absolute "must see" for anyone other than the most devout culturephobe. There is a huge range of buildings and it leaves one truly amazed at the ingenuity of these ancient people.

>While at Chichen Itza you will find locals selling anything from hand embroidered handkerchiefs to Mayan ceremonial masks. Maybe a place to pick up one or two of those gifts for the folks back home!