Chichen Itza – the Pyramid of Kukulcan at the vernal equinox
We finally got some good photos up of the pyramid at Chichen Itza that we took two weeks ago. Here’s one taken by my glorious girlfriend. Since it was nearly the vernal equinox, notice that the shadows from the corner of the pyramid align themselves against the right stairwell, so that it appears there are seven triangular shadows and six triangles of light, making thirteen triangles in all going down the length of the stairwell. Note the head of the serpent at the bottom–the stairwells are basically statues of Kukulcan, the feathered snake god, and the triangles are the zig-zag pattern of his scales. According to our Mayan guide, even after the population of Chichen Itza left en masse to avoid an invasion, the peoples of nearby cities would make pilgrimage to Chichen Itza every year on the equinoxes to worship Kukulcan.
One interesting archaeological feature of this plaza is that if you stand across from the pyramid, in front of the Kukulcan stairway, and make a loud clap or bang, you hear exactly seven echoes! The site was built for acoustics as well as for the seasonal shadowplay.
The little doorway under the stairs is not original–this leads to an excavation of the smaller pyramid beneath the larger one, which the Mayans covered over when they supersized it over a thousand years ago. It’s one of the many places that tourists can’t go anymore, just because some stupid kids tagged the ruins to the point where archaeologists feared for the preservation of the site. But I was there a decade ago, and really missed returning to the haunting chamber within, that still houses a jaguar throne encrusted with jade.