Open main menu

Wikipedia β

El Castillo (Spanish pronunciation: [el kas'tiʎo], Spanish for "the castle"), also known as the Temple of Kukulcan (or sometimes Kukulkan), 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.

El Castillo, Chichen Itza
Chichen Itza 3.jpg
North-west view of El Castillo
Constructed 8th–12th century
Type Mesoamerican Step pyramid
Material limestone
Height 24 m (79 ft), without temple
30 m (98 ft), with temple
Base 55.3 m (181 ft)
Slope 37°29'44" (edges)
47º19'50" (sides)
UNESCO World Heritage Site
Location Tinum Municipality, Mexico
Part of Pre-Hispanic City of Chichen-Itza
Criteria Cultural: (i), (ii), (iii)
Reference 483
Inscription 1988 (12th Session)
Coordinates 20°40′58.4″N 88°34′7.0″W / 20.682889°N 88.568611°W / 20.682889; -88.568611Coordinates: 20°40′58.4″N 88°34′7.0″W / 20.682889°N 88.568611°W / 20.682889; -88.568611
El Castillo, Chichen Itza is located in Mexico
El Castillo, Chichen Itza
Location of El Castillo, Chichen Itza in Mexico.

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.[1] 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).[2]

The structure is 24 m (79 ft) high, plus an additional 6 m (20 ft) for the temple. The square base measures 55.3 m (181 ft) across.

Contents

ConstructionEdit

The construction of El Castillo, like other Mesoamerican pyramids, likely reflected the common practice of executing several phases of construction. The last construction probably took place between 900-1000 CE, while the substructure may have been constructed between 600-800 CE. Based on archaeological research, construction of El Castillo was based on the concept of axis mundi.[3] It is thought that the space remained sacred regardless of the structure positioned on the location. When a temple or pyramid structure was renewed, the former construction was ritually destroyed, which involved resolving the space of spiritual forces to preserve its sacredness.[4] It is estimated that this construction dates to the eleventh century CE. After all of the work was completed, an entryway was cut into the balustrade of the northeastern exterior staircase to provide access to tourists. The older, inner pyramid is referred to as the "substructure".

Inside the pyramidEdit

In 1566, the pyramid was described by Friar Diego de Landa in the manuscript known as Yucatán at the Time of the Spanish Encounter (Relación de las cosas de Yucatán). Almost three centuries later, John Lloyd Stephens described with even more detail the architecture of the pyramid in his book Incidents of Travel in Yucatán (Incidentes del viaje Yucatán), published in 1843. At that time, the archaeological site of Chichén Itzá was located on an estate, also called Chichén Itzá, owned by Juan Sosa. Frederick Catherwood illustrated the book with lithographs depicting the pyramid covered in abundant vegetation on all sides. There are some photographs taken in the beginning of the 20th century that also show the pyramid partially covered by said vegetation.

In 1924, the Carnegie Institution for Science in Washington, D.C. requested permission from the Mexican government to carry out explorations and restoration efforts in and around the area of Chichen Itza. In 1927, with the assistance of Mexican archaeologists, they started the task. In April 1931, looking to confirm the hypothesis that the structure of the pyramid of Kukulkan was built on top of a much older pyramid, the work of excavation and exploration began in spite of generalized beliefs contrary to that hypothesis. On June 7, 1932, a box with coral, obsidian, and turquoise encrusted objects was found alongside human remains, which are exhibited in the National Anthropology Museum in Mexico City.

El Castillo is located above a cavity filled with water, labeled a sinkhole or cenote. Recent archaeological investigations suggest that an earlier construction phase is located closer to the south-east cenote, rather than being centered.[5] This specific proximity to the cenote suggests that the Maya may have been aware of the cenote’s existence and purposefully constructed there to facilitate their religious beliefs.[6]

After extensive work, in April 1935, a Chac Mool statue, with its nails, teeth, and eyes inlaid with mother of pearl was found inside the pyramid. The room where the discovery was made was nicknamed the "Hall of offerings" or "North Chamber". After more than a year of excavation, in August 1936, a second room was found, only meters away from the first. Inside this room, dubbed the "Chamber of Sacrifices", archaeologists found two parallel rows of human bone set into the back wall, as well as a red jaguar statue. Both deposits of human remains were found oriented north-northeast. Researchers concluded that there must be an inner pyramid approximately 33 m (108 ft) wide, shaped similarly to the outer pyramid, with nine steps and a height of 17 m (56 ft) up to the base of the temple where the Chac Mool and the jaguar were found.

The discovery of what appears to be a throne (referred to as the "Red Jaguar") in the throne room was previously assumed to have been decorated with flint and green stone discs, but recent research has determined the jaguar to be composed of highly symbolic and valued materials for ritualistic significance. The use of x-ray fluorescence (pXRF) was used to determine that the sculpture is painted red with a pigment that includes cinnabar, or mercury sulfide (HgS)[7]. Cinnabar was not in accessible proximity to Chichén Itzá, so the transportation of this pigment through long-distance trade placed a high value of this product.[7] Additionally, the color red appears to be significant to Maya symbolism, and it is associated with creating life as well as death and sacrifice.[8] Studies suggest that objects in Maya culture were imbued with vital essence, so the choice of painting the jaguar red may be a reflection of these beliefs, deeming the jaguar as an offering.[9] The high-status associated with the cinnabar pigment and its red tone suggest that the jaguar was linked to ritual importance of closing a temple for renewal.[10]

The four fangs of the Red Jaguar have been identified as gastropod mollusk shells (Lobatus costatus) using a digital microscope and comparative analysis from malacology experts from the National Institute of Anthropology and History, another valued resource that may have been traded into Chichén Itzá.[11] The green stones were also analyzed and determined to be a form of jadeite.[12] Jadeite was valuable economically and socially, and the acquisition and application of the material is indicative of the access Chichén Itzá had along its trade routes.[13]

Archaeological studies indicate that the Red Jaguar is similar to other depictions of thrones found in murals (Temple of Chacmool), thus whomever was seated on this throne could have been accessing the point of axis mundi, which is essential to the elements and relationship to the cosmological system.[14] The symbolic usage of materials related to the underworld and death also suggest that it acted as an offering for ritually closing the temple.[15]


AlignmentEdit

 
Alignment to sunrise and sunset, on solstices, equinoxes and solar zenith passage, at Chichén Itzá.

The location of the pyramid is aligned at the intersection between four cenotes: the Sacred Cenote, Xtoloc, Kanjuyum, and Holtún. This alignment supports the position of El Castillo as an axis mundi.[16] The western and eastern sides of the temple are angled to the zenith sunset and nadir sunrise, which may correspond with other calendar events such as start of the traditional planting and harvesting seasons.[17]

The north (main) face of the pyramid has an azimuth of 111.72°, corresponding to sunsets on May 20 and July 24.[1]

The NE and SW corners are together aligned to the rising and setting of the sun on each of the two days of the solar zenith passage (approximately May 24 and July 19).

Recent developmentsEdit

In recent years, the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH), which manages the archaeological site of Chichen Itza, has been closing monuments to public. While visitors can walk around them, they can no longer climb them or go inside their chambers. Climbing El Castillo was stopped in 2006, after a woman fell to her death. At the same time INAH closed the public access to the interior throne room.[18]

Today "El Castillo" is one of the most recognized and widely visited pre-Columbian structures in present-day Mexico.[19]

Additionally, researchers have discovered an enormous cenote (also known as a sinkhole) beneath the 1,000-year-old temple of Kulkulkan. The forming sinkhole beneath the temple is around 82 by 114 feet (25 by 35 meters) and up to 65 feet (20 meters) deep. The water filling the cavern is thought to run from north to south.

Researchers also found a layer of limestone about 16 feet (4.9 meters) thick at the top of the cenote, on which the pyramid is sitting.

Recent archaeological investigations have utilized Electrical Resistivity Tomography (ERT) to examine the construction sequence of El Castillo.[20] To preserve the site from potential damage, electrodes were placed non-traditionally as flat-based detectors around the quadrangle of the pyramid bodies of the pyramid. After each pyramidal body was tested, the data revealed two previous construction phases within El Castillo with a possible temple at the top of the second substructure. Determining the dates of when these constructions happened will provide time periods of when Chichen Itza may have beensignificantly occupied.[21]

 
Comparison of approximate profiles of the El Castillo, Chichen Itza with some notable pyramidal or near-pyramidal buildings. Dotted lines indicate original heights, where data are available. In its SVG file, hover over a pyramid to highlight and click for its article.

See alsoEdit

NotesEdit

  1. ^ a b Šprajc and Sánchez 2013
  2. ^ Milbrath 1989: 66
  3. ^ Tejero-Andrade, A., Argote-Espino, D., Cifuentes-Nava, G., Hernández-Quintero, E., Chávez, R.E., & García-Serrano, A. (2018). ‘Illuminating’ the interior of Kukulkan's Pyramid, Chichén Itzá, Mexico, by means of a non-conventional ERT geophysical survey. Journal of Archaeological Science, 90, 1-11.
  4. ^ Tejero-Andrade, A., Argote-Espino, D., Cifuentes-Nava, G., Hernández-Quintero, E., Chávez, R.E., & García-Serrano, A. (2018). ‘Illuminating’ the interior of Kukulkan's Pyramid, Chichén Itzá, Mexico, by means of a non-conventional ERT geophysical survey. Journal of Archaeological Science, 90, 1-11.
  5. ^ Tejero-Andrade, A., Argote-Espino, D., Cifuentes-Nava, G., Hernández-Quintero, E., Chávez, R.E., & García-Serrano, A. (2018). ‘Illuminating’ the interior of Kukulkan's Pyramid, Chichén Itzá, Mexico, by means of a non-conventional ERT geophysical survey. Journal of Archaeological Science, 90, 1-11.
  6. ^ Tejero-Andrade, A., Argote-Espino, D., Cifuentes-Nava, G., Hernández-Quintero, E., Chávez, R.E., & García-Serrano, A. (2018). ‘Illuminating’ the interior of Kukulkan's Pyramid, Chichén Itzá, Mexico, by means of a non-conventional ERT geophysical survey. Journal of Archaeological Science, 90, 1-11.
  7. ^ a b Juárez-Rodríguez, O., Argote-Espino D., Santos-Ramírez, M., & López-García, P. (2017). Portable XRF analysis for the identification of raw materials of the Red Jaguar sculpture in Chichén Itzá, Mexico. Quaternary International, Quaternary International.
  8. ^ Juárez-Rodríguez, O., Argote-Espino D., Santos-Ramírez, M., & López-García, P. (2017). Portable XRF analysis for the identification of raw materials of the Red Jaguar sculpture in Chichén Itzá, Mexico. Quaternary International, Quaternary International.
  9. ^ Juárez-Rodríguez, O., Argote-Espino D., Santos-Ramírez, M., & López-García, P. (2017). Portable XRF analysis for the identification of raw materials of the Red Jaguar sculpture in Chichén Itzá, Mexico. Quaternary International, Quaternary International.
  10. ^ Juárez-Rodríguez, O., Argote-Espino D., Santos-Ramírez, M., & López-García, P. (2017). Portable XRF analysis for the identification of raw materials of the Red Jaguar sculpture in Chichén Itzá, Mexico. Quaternary International, Quaternary International.
  11. ^ Juárez-Rodríguez, O., Argote-Espino D., Santos-Ramírez, M., & López-García, P. (2017). Portable XRF analysis for the identification of raw materials of the Red Jaguar sculpture in Chichén Itzá, Mexico. Quaternary International, Quaternary International.
  12. ^ Juárez-Rodríguez, O., Argote-Espino D., Santos-Ramírez, M., & López-García, P. (2017). Portable XRF analysis for the identification of raw materials of the Red Jaguar sculpture in Chichén Itzá, Mexico. Quaternary International, Quaternary International.
  13. ^ Juárez-Rodríguez, O., Argote-Espino D., Santos-Ramírez, M., & López-García, P. (2017). Portable XRF analysis for the identification of raw materials of the Red Jaguar sculpture in Chichén Itzá, Mexico. Quaternary International, Quaternary International.
  14. ^ Juárez-Rodríguez, O., Argote-Espino D., Santos-Ramírez, M., & López-García, P. (2017). Portable XRF analysis for the identification of raw materials of the Red Jaguar sculpture in Chichén Itzá, Mexico. Quaternary International, Quaternary International.
  15. ^ Juárez-Rodríguez, O., Argote-Espino D., Santos-Ramírez, M., & López-García, P. (2017). Portable XRF analysis for the identification of raw materials of the Red Jaguar sculpture in Chichén Itzá, Mexico. Quaternary International, Quaternary International.
  16. ^ Tejero-Andrade, A., Argote-Espino, D., Cifuentes-Nava, G., Hernández-Quintero, E., Chávez, R.E., & García-Serrano, A. (2018). ‘Illuminating’ the interior of Kukulkan's Pyramid, Chichén Itzá, Mexico, by means of a non-conventional ERT geophysical survey. Journal of Archaeological Science, 90, 1-11.
  17. ^ Wren, L., Kristan-Graham, C., Nygard, T., & Spencer, K. R. (2018). Landscapes of the Itza : Archaeology and art history at Chichen Itza and neighboring sites. Gainesville: University Press of Florida.
  18. ^ Diario de Yucatan, "Fin a una exención para los mexicanos: Pagarán el día del equinoccio en la zona arqueológica," March 3, 2006.
  19. ^ Coe 1999: 176
  20. ^ Tejero-Andrade, A., Argote-Espino, D., Cifuentes-Nava, G., Hernández-Quintero, E., Chávez, R.E., & García-Serrano, A. (2018). ‘Illuminating’ the interior of Kukulkan's Pyramid, Chichén Itzá, Mexico, by means of a non-conventional ERT geophysical survey. Journal of Archaeological Science, 90, 1-11.
  21. ^ Tejero-Andrade, A., Argote-Espino, D., Cifuentes-Nava, G., Hernández-Quintero, E., Chávez, R.E., & García-Serrano, A. (2018). ‘Illuminating’ the interior of Kukulkan's Pyramid, Chichén Itzá, Mexico, by means of a non-conventional ERT geophysical survey. Journal of Archaeological Science, 90, 1-11.

ReferencesEdit

  • Coe, Michael D. (1999). The Maya. Ancient peoples and places series (6th, fully revised and expanded ed.). London and New York: Thames & Hudson. ISBN 0-500-28066-5. OCLC 59432778. 
  • Milbrath, Susan (1999). Star Gods of the Maya: Astronomy in Art, Folklore, and Calendars. The Linda Schele series in Maya and pre-Columbian studies. Austin: University of Texas Press. ISBN 0-292-75225-3. OCLC 40848420. 
  • Šprajc, Ivan, and Pedro Francisco Sánchez Nava (2013). Astronomía en la arquitectura de Chichén Itzá: una reevaluación. Estudios de Cultura Maya XLI: p. 31–60.
  • Willard, T.A. (1941). Kukulcan, the Bearded Conqueror : New Mayan Discoveries. Hollywood, CA: Murray and Gee. OCLC 3491500. 

Gray, Richard. "Sacred Sinkhole Discovered 1,000-year-old-Mayan-Temple-Eventually-Destroy-Pyramid." Science & tech August 17, 2015. Dailymail. Web. August 17, 2015.

Justice, Adam. "Scientists discover sacred sinkhole cave under Chichen Itza pyramid." Science (2015). Ibtimes. Web. August 14, 2015.

Juárez-Rodríguez, O., Argote-Espino D., Santos-Ramírez, M., & López-García, P. (2017). Portable XRF analysis for the identification of raw materials of the Red Jaguar sculpture in Chichén Itzá, Mexico. Quaternary International, Quaternary International.

Tejero-Andrade, A., Argote-Espino, D., Cifuentes-Nava, G., Hernández-Quintero, E., Chávez, R.E., & García-Serrano, A. (2018). ‘Illuminating’ the interior of Kukulkan's Pyramid, Chichén Itzá, Mexico, by means of a non-conventional ERT geophysical survey. Journal of Archaeological Science, 90, 1-11.

Wren, L., Kristan-Graham, C., Nygard, T., & Spencer, K. R. (2018). Landscapes of the Itza : Archaeology and art history at Chichen Itza and neighboring sites. Gainesville: University Press of Florida.