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Exploring Ancient Mayan History At Chichen Itza

Tom Malone/Adventure Tribune
The ancient Mayan city of Chichen Itza is one of the Seven Wonders of the World. And for good reason.


YUCATAN, Mexico - As we entered the complex of Chichen Itza, I expected to see the iconic pyramid, take some pictures, and then leave. I knew that Chichen Itza was once the center of Mayan civilization and they created a great pyramid, and I thought that was all.

I was wrong.

We entered the Chichen Itza complex and immediately saw the massive structure. We learned that the pyramid was built to face away from the summer solstice; one this day, the shadow at the edge of the pyramid would look like a snake running down the side, thousands of people would fill the plaza, and the future of their survival would depend of the rain.

And that was just the beginning. We explored for hours and covered miles of ground. The city was huge.

We walked onto an ancient sport court, where the Maya would play what seemed to be an old form of soccer: they would hit the ball with their hips, keep it off the ground, and score by getting the ball through a hoop along the sideline wall. The main difference between modern sports and ancient Mayan sports: the losing Mayan team was executed.

Our exploration brought us to a few cenotes: underground, freshwater caverns that provided this riverless area with seemingly unlimited fresh water upon which they were able to build a civilization so complex.

Then, we came to the religious and intellectual center of the city. There was an observatory that was probably more advanced than any other in the world in the 800s. We viewed the priests' houses, nobility apartments, and saw columns built to honor warriors.

The entire trek through Chichen Itza was much more elaborate than I imagined, and it was completely worth it. Though sections of it do seem a bit touristy thanks to tour buses and people selling trinkets, the experience of walking through ancient history that was lost to the jungle for about 1,000 years was unlike any other adventure. Another one of the Seven Wonders of the World.

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Tom Malone is the Editor-In-Chief of The Adventure Tribune and author of adventure novels, like Across Americana. He is based in Denver, Colorado, where he adventures through the Rocky Mountains while not traveling abroad.
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