John Pohl, THE CODICES John Pohl's


CHICHÉN ITZÁ  (circa A.D. 750-1200)

Throughout the Late Classic, political control of the Yucatán peninsula had been divided between a constellation of Puuc centers including Edzná, Sayil, Labná, Kabáh, and Uxmal in the west and a metropolitan city-state called Cobá in the east.

Then during the ninth century, a new competitor emerged on the central plain at Chichén Itzá. Taking advantage of Cobá’s waning influence, the Itzá people had allied themselves with sea traders plying the waters off the north coast. By the dawn of the PostClassic around A.D. 900, they had created the most powerful confederacy the Maya world had ever known.

Despite over a century of excavation and restoration, Chichén Itzá remains enigmatic. While many of its earliest buildings were constructed in Puuc style, possibly under the influence of Uxmal; later incorporation with coastal traders brought radical innovations from a highly unlikely place - Tula, the 10th century Toltec capital located 700 miles west in the Basin of México. What could account for such long distance exchange in religious and political symbolism? The most recent interpretations emphasize mutual exchange through trade and religion to explain the spread of elite art and architecture. It appears that the Toltecs of Central México may have succeeded in developing a special long distance monopoly with the Yucatec Maya by introducing a new cult dedicated to the plumed-serpent god known to them as Quetzalcoatl (Feathered Serpent) and to the Maya as Kulkulcan. Toltec influences in Chichén's ritual culture were therefore fostered through mutual exchange and not through conquest. Whatever factors played a role in its foundation, the legacy of Chichén Itzá has far outlasted its three centuries as a political center. Abandoned in the 13th century, the ruins continue to represent cultural solidarity to the Maya people in the face of outside suppression, even in recent historical times.

Image - The Castillo

During the days surrounding the vernal equinox, the sun strikes the corner of the Castillo in such a way that it casts a shadow upon the north staircase, transforming the serpent headed balustrade into an undulating, diamond-backed rattlesnake. Click on Image for more detail.

Image - The Temple of the Warriors

The Temple of the Warriors with its “Chaak” mask-panel wall ornamentation and plumed serpent columns is a remarkable fusion of native Maya Puuc and Central Mexican Toltec design. Click on Image for more detail.

Image - Ballcourt reliefs

There are more than simply Toltec influences incorporated into Chichén Itzá’s art. The ballcourt reliefs featuring decapitated captains falling to their knees before rubber balls emblazoned with skulls reflect a style more typical of El Tajín, Veracruz. Click on Image for more detail.

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