Caracol, Columns & Keystone
September 24th, 2020
After yesterday’s faces, today we’re taking a quick look at three areas of Chichén Itzá.
El Caracol, located on the south side of the site, is an astronomical observatory with several tiers topped by a rotunda. El Caracol means “conch,” and refers to the spiral steps that lead to the top of the observatory, much like the spiral formation of a conch shell.
The Maya sometimes built things in layers, on top of existing buildings. According to research by the Carnegie Institute in the 1920s, that is the case here with six superimposed structures forming the final observatory we see today.
Do you see the face in the crumbling top of El Caracol? Straight above the opening in the rotunda, the eyes, nose and mouth look northwest. The protruding rock on the left side may be another “bignosed” face in profile.
On the east side of Chichén Itzá, the Market faces north on a platform accessed by 11 steps. A closer look at the wall construction feels reminiscent of the work of the Incas at Machu Picchu. It’s interesting to think about some of the world’s well-known historic sites and when (generally) they were constructed in relation to one another:
Stonehenge: 3000 B.C.
Pyramid of Djoser, Egypt: 2650 B.C.
Knossos, Greece: 1950 B.C.
Ephesus, Turkey: 10th century B.C.
Acropolis, Greece: 10th century B.C.
Petra, Jordan: 400 B.C.
The Great Wall, China: 221 B.C.
Roman Colosseum, Italy: 1st century
Chichén Itzá, Mexico: 7th century
Borobudur, Indonesia: 8th century
Angkor Wat, Cambodia: 12th century
Lalibela, Ethiopia: 12th century
Machu Picchu, Peru: 15th century
Taj Mahal, India: 17th century
Next to the market, the Group of the Thousand Columns takes some time to explore. The rows and rows of columns would have held up a roof of some kind, and connected to the Temple of the Warriors at the west end. Even here, faces peer out from the platform’s high wall and corners.
Lastly, here’s a closer look at the angular Mayan arch, formed by “boot” shaped stones that are weighted on the outside to form the inside surface of the arch. The Mayan arch is not a traditional arch with a keystone locked in the center. As you can see, the center stone was instead placed on top, bridging both sides.
Tomorrow, we’ll visit Chichén Itzá’s grand ball court.
Post of the Day: Adding a bit of light to the darkness as we get through the pandemic together. This series features travel photos from my archives, shared with you while staying close to home.