Mystery Wonders
El Castillo, Chichen Itza

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According to legend, twice a year when the day and night are in balance, this pyramid dedicated to Kukulcan (or Quetzalcoatl), the feathered serpent god, is visited by its namesake. On the equinox Kukulcan returns to earth to commune with his worshipers, provide blessing for a full harvest and good health before entering the sacred water, bathing in it, and continuing through it on his way to the underworld. A handclap near the base of the pyramid results in an unusual chirping echo, which is said to replicate the call of the sacred quetzal bird. All legends aside, crafty and mathematically brilliant architecture combined with the natural rotation of the earth creates an amazing and somewhat eerie image of a giant snake crawling down the temple. For five hours an illusion of light and shadow creates seven triangles on the side of the staircase starting at the top and inching its way down until it connects the top platform with the giant stone head of the feathered serpent at the bottom. For forty-five minutes this impressive shadow stays in its entirety before slowing descending the pyramid and disappearing along with the crowd that gathered to see it. The Pyramid of Kukulcan (also know as El Castillo, a name given by the Spanish Conquistadors) is the central pyramid of Chich’en Itza, it was built over a pre-existing temple between 800 and 900 AD. It is the biggest pyramid in Chich’en 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 Mesoamerican fascination with, and knowledge of, math and astronomy shines when examining the details of its architecture. Each of the four sides has ninety-one steps ascending it, 364 steps total, with the temple topping the pyramid considered an addition step totaling 365, each step representing a day in the calendar. Additionally, the pyramid's nine stages, bisected by a staircase on each side, represent the eighteen months of the Mayan Calendar year. The pyramid was built to be a physical representation of the Mayan Calendar (the same calendar that predicts the end of the world in 2012), while its orientation, slightly North East, is believed to have been calculated in order to create the phenomenon know as the “Descent of Kukulcan”. This phenomena is recreated nightly (artificially) during the Light and Sounds Show at 7pm in the winter and 8pm in the summer. Chich'en Itza is one of the New Seven Wonders of the World, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.


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El Castillo, also known as the Temple of Kukulcan, is a Mesoamerican step-pyramid that dominates the center of the Chichen Itza archaeological site in the Mexican state of Yucatán. The building is more formally designated by archaeologists as Chichen Itza Structure 5B18. Built by the pre-Columbian Maya civilization sometime between the 9th and 12th centuries CE, El Castillo served as a temple to the god Kukulkan, the Yucatec Maya Feathered Serpent deity closely related to the god Quetzalcoatl known to the Aztecs and other central Mexican cultures of the Postclassic period. The pyramid consists of a series of square terraces with stairways up each of the four sides to the temple on top. Sculptures of plumed serpents run down the sides of the northern balustrade. During the spring and autumn equinoxes, the late afternoon sun strikes off the northwest corner of the pyramid and casts a series of triangular shadows against the northwest balustrade, creating the illusion of a feathered serpent "crawling" down the pyramid. The event has been very popular, but it is questionable whether it is a result of a purposeful design. Each of the pyramid's four sides has 91 steps which, when added together and including the temple platform on top as the final "step", produces a total of 365 steps (which is equal to the number of days of the Haab' year). The structure is 24 m (78 ft) high, plus an additional 6 m (19 ft) for the temple. The square base measures 55.3 m (180 ft) across.




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