El Adivino (The Temple of the Magician), Uxmal
As you enter the Zona Arqueologicia, the highest building in the region, El Adivino, The Pyramid
of the Magician, (38 m, 125 ft.) stands before you. The legend states that it was built in a single
night by a dwarf, aided by his mother, a witch. Archaeological excavations reveal that the
pyramid (really temple) is actually five superimposed structures that were built and rebuilt over
a period of three centuries.
One of the large iguanas that were found among the stome piles surrounding the Pyramid of the Magician and elsewhere at Uxmal.
Governor's Palace, Uxmal
The Governor's Palace is considered by some to be the finest example of pre-Hispanic architecture
in the western hemisphere. The building is set on a large platform on a terrace. It is 98m (322
feet) long, 12 m (39 feet) across and 8 m (26 feet) high. There is a central structure with two
wings flanking two corbelled vaulted corridors which were later closed off by cross walls. This
was one of the last buildings to be built at Uxmal and has been dated at 900-915 A.D. or
Looking Back toward El Adivino
Because the Governor's Palace was built on a natural rise, you can look back toward the
northeast to see El Adivino rising above the trees and also see the Nunnery Quadrangle.
Four Stacked Chac Masks
This building has 26 rooms with eleven entrances opening off the courtyard. The frieze has
decorations of Mayan huts, monkeys and snakes. There are four towers, each having four
stacked Chac masks.
El Castillo - The Pyramid of Kulkulkán, Chichén Itzá
The beautiful pyramid known as El Castillo or The Pyramid of Kulkulkán has been very well
restored. It is a square based structure over 25m (80 feet) high, having nine terraces and
four staircases., supposed to represent the nine heavens and the four cardinal points. Each
staircase has 91 steps for a total of 364 steps. If the final step up to the summit platform is
included, there is one step for each day of the year. On each of the staircases is a large snake's
head. The staircases ascend at an angle of 45° . At the end of the ascent, on top of the
pyramid, is the corbel vaulted Temple of Kulkulkán.
Serpent's Head at Base of Staircase, Chichén Itzá
The alignment of the pyramid was accurately planned to align with astronomical phenomena.
At the spring equinox, the play of light and shadows formed by the pyramid on one of its
staircases, and ending at the large serpent's head at the base of the staircase, shows the
descent of the serpent god, Kulkulkán from his temple, a sign that it is time to plant the corn.
El Caracol, Chichén Itzá
El Caracol is one of the most interesting buildings at Chichén Itzá. Apparently it was an
observatory. The name, meaning snail in Spanish, referring to the spiral stairway within the
building. It is the only round structure found here.
For many years, before its function was demonstrated, it was considered an anomaly, a mistake.
The architecture was so out of keeping with the general Mayan architectural style that it was
considered one of those architectural "mistakes" that crop up from time to time. More recent
studies of the site, including accurate measurements of the lines of sight provided by the door
and window openings in the structure, demonstrate that the building was accurately constructed
to allow observations of astronomical phenomena which, in turn, influenced the cultural and
agricultural life of the community.
Nunnery Annex, Chichén Itzá
The Nunnery Annex was covered with masks of the rain god, Chac, but the curving snouts
were long since gone. A few snouts remain on the higher level masks on the facades of the
Nunnery itself, seen on the righthand side of the picture.
Temple of the Jaguars and Ballcourt, Chichén Itzá
Within the temple are murals supposed to depict a battle between the Mayas and the Toltecs.
The ballcourt is the largest found in MesoAmerica. The large grassy court (85m [280 feet] x 35m
[115 feet] ) was bounded by two high walls. On the walls, midway down the court, are high (7m
[22 feet]) stone rings through which the players were supposed to send a hard rubber ball,
using only their knees, elbows and hips. Since the ball was a symbol of the sun, it was not
allowed to touch the ground. To do so would be to interrupt the symbolic course of the sun
across the sky. The losing players were sacrificed. Relief panels along the walls show these
players being led to the sacrifice.
El Castillo Seen from the Temple of the Warriors, Chichén Itzá
Here El Castillo is viewed through a few of the Warrior Columns at the Temple of the Warriors.
The Group of A Thousand Columns, Chichén Itzá
Columns were an an architectural device not known to the Mayans, until contact with the Toltecs.
There are no columns used in the pure Puuc architechure found at Uxmal. That is one of the
things, besides its smaller size, that gives Uxmal its intimate atmosphere. It is not known what
purpose the Group of A Thousand Columns served. It was presumably roofed over originally.
The columns are all covered with relief sculptures of figures of warriors.
Vertical View of a Few of the Thousand Columns, Chichén Itzá
The columns, in the Group of a Thousand Columns, are carved with images of Warriors, all in shallow relief.