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El Castillo, or “The Temple of Kukulkan,” in the city of Chichen Itza
Objective: Relate Mayan religion to architecture and history Procedures: • Learn about El Castillo • Prove your learning for each step of the pyramid • Adorn the pyramid with art! • Construct the pyramid
Piece 1 Built by the pre-Columbian Maya civilization (in the Classic Period) sometime between the 9th and 12th centuries CE, El Castillo served as a temple to the god Kukulkan, the MayaFeathered Serpent deity.
Piece 2 El Castillo is a temple in the Mayan city of Chichen Itza, located in the eastern portion of Yucatán state in Mexico. The northern Yucatán Peninsula is arid, and the rivers in the interior all run underground. There are two large, natural sink holes, called cenotes, that could have provided plentiful water year round at Chichen, making it attractive for settlement. Of the two cenotes, the "CenoteSagrado" or Sacred Cenote (also variously known as the Sacred Well or Well of Sacrifice), is the most famous. According to post-Conquest sources (Maya and Spanish), pre-Columbian Maya sacrificed objects and human beings into the cenote as a form of worship to the Maya rain god Chaac.
Piece 3 A unique and spectacular style, Maya architecture spans several thousands of years. Often the most dramatic and easily recognizable as Maya are the stepped pyramids from the Pre-classic period and beyond. Being based on the general Mesoamerican architectural traditions these pyramids relied on intricate carved stone in order to create a stairstep design. Each pyramid was dedicated to a deity whose shrine sat at its peak. During this "height" of Maya culture, the centers of their religious, commercial and bureaucratic power grew into large cities, including ChichenItza, Tikal, and Uxmal. Through observation of the numerous consistent elements and stylistic distinctions, remnants of Maya architecture have become an important key to understanding the evolution of their ancient civilization.
Piece 4 Chichen Itza and other city states were their own kingdoms, headed by an “ajaw” (meaning ruler or leader). Mayan society was hierarchical; some people were more powerful than others. To be sure, the “ajaw” was the most powerful person; he or she was the most important noble, and his or her power was passed down to children. This resembles the hereditary power of monarchs (kings) in Europe during feudalism. Jasaw Chan K’awii I, an ajaw, oversaw religious ceremonies and his city state’s military.
Piece 5 The pyramid consists of a series of square terraces with stairways up each of the four sides to the temple on top. Sculptures of plumed serpents run down the sides of the northern walkway. During the spring and autumn equinoxes, the late afternoon sun strikes off the northwest corner of the pyramid and casts a series of triangular shadows against the northwest walkway, creating the illusion of a feathered serpent "crawling" down the pyramid. Each of the pyramid's four sides has 91 steps which, when added together and including the temple platform on top as the final 'step', produces a total of 365 steps (which is equal to the number of days of the Haab'year).
Imagine yourself as either a priest, peasant, ajaw, slave, or noble of the city Chichen Itza. Write a message that: • Tells us your role / social class • Explains why Mayan society is declining • What you could do to solve the situation