26 Fascinating Chichen Itza Facts For Kids

The iconic castillo pyramid at Chichen Itza.
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Image © VViktor, Pixabay.

Chichen Itza is an ancient Mayan city that is a World Heritage Site. Here are some interesting facts about this diverse location in the Yucatan peninsula that any young history buffs will love.

The history and culture of the Chichen Itza is very diverse and this historical site is rich in information and facts. Due to its cultural significance, Chichen Itza is now one of the new wonders of the world.

The Maya people of Chichen Itza were very clever and had constructed a temple of the warriors, pyramids, the Great Ball Court and natural beauties like the sacred cenote. The Chichen Itza was once a major cultural site for its people, and is now a major archaeological site for tourists and enthusiasts alike.

Interesting Chichen Itza Facts

Chichen Itza is a very well known archaeological site in Yucatan, Mexico. It was discovered by archaeologists in the 1800s.

1. Chichen Itza was built by the Mayan people around 250 AD to 900 AD. This was even before the Aztec era! The Chichen Itza is built in the architectural style of Puuc. This was often made from limestone, and had plan surfaces on the bottom half of the building structures, while the top half paid homage to the Gods with intricate carvings.

2. It's one of the largest Mayan cities ever built so archaeologists are fascinated by it, because of its diverse population, there is so much information to be found about the Mayan people and their customs. It's important to learn about ancient cultures because it can inform how we view our culture and tell us about the past.

3. The Mayan people are the indigenous people to Central America. They are noted for having one of the most sophisticated writing systems for their time, and practised subjects we still use today, such as mathematics, art, architecture, astronomy and calendar systems. This is why Chichen Itza is one of the seven Wonders of the World, because of its complex design and rich history.

Chichen Itza at night with an amazing star-filled sky behind.
Image © Walkerssk, Pixabay

4. The Maya people even used hieroglyphics! Not Egyptian ones, but they are similar. The Mayan hieroglyphics also used pictures and characters to represent certain phrases and words

5. The earliest notable structures found at the Chichen Itza are the Red House, the Church, the Nunnery, and the observatory, El Caracol.

6. Chichen Itza is one of the most visited archaeological sites in the whole of Mexico, with over 2.6 million visitors in 2017.

7. Chichen Itza has a specific meaning, it means the 'mouth of the well of Itza'.

8. After discovering human remains at the Chichen Itza site, it is believed that human sacrifices took place there. Possibly to Chaac, the Maya God of rain.

9. The city of Chichen Itza had to be levelled off so construction work could begin (it covers about 5km of land!).

10. One of the most prominent tourist attractions in Chichen Itza is the Castillo Pyramid, also known as El Castillo, which is a famous Maya structure. This pyramid is so well constructed, it has a step for every day of the year - 365! El Castillo is a whopping 79 feet high and that's 29 metres, above the main plaza.

11. These structures in Chichen Itza were not just beautiful buildings but also served as calendars, hence the steps being numbered in terms of a year like El Castillo. They can tell by the way shadows fall on a step every year, we think that's amazing. But because of how narrow the steps are, climbing up them is no longer allowed. So if you ever visit, be sure to keep that in mind.

11. El Castillo is dedicated to Kukulkan, which is a plumed serpent. To honour Kukulkan, every year on fall and spring of the equinox, the building will make the shape of a snake through light and shadow on the steps of El Castillo. Especially for ancient times, the Chichen Itza people were advanced.

12. Kukulkan temple is dedicated to the planet Venus and this planet is said to have influenced the architecture of Chichen Itza, as the Maya people were keen astronomers.  

13. If you clap while at Kukulkan temple, it is said to make a serpent sound... we'd be scared!

14. El Castillo is about 1km in diameter!

15. The Maya people of Chichen Itza were also really into their astrology as well as keeping track of the time. Historians found remains observatory equipment and structures that would have enabled them to view the sky and the stars. The Maya people were very advanced and able to predict solar eclipses.

16. The Chichen Itza was abandoned by the 15th Century by its people. This is thought to be because of the terrible and long-lasting droughts that made it hard to produce crops and provide for their community.

View of the sacred cenote from the top. People are swimming in the water.
Image © edtribo, Pixabay

What is The Purpose of Chichen Itza?

Chichen Itza was a community of people. Its purpose was survival and care! All the structures were built to aid the community and honour the Gods of the Maya people. To create such complex structures and clever pyramids, the Maya people were very intelligent and knowing. The following interesting facts prove just that about Chichen Itza!

For example, The Great Ball Court was a place where community members could gather together play sports. It's actually the largest known ancient sports field in Central America. Each end has a raised temple to mark off the location. It was probably used for ceremonies too, as the sound in the Great Ball Court is also amazing. You could whisper at one end of it and hear it at the other!

17. There are actually 13 ballcourts in Chichen Itza. The Maya people in Chichen Itza weren't just warriors, but loved playing sports too. In one game, they bounce a rubber ball from their hip. There's a version of this game that is still played in Central America, called Ulama.

18. Another place community members in Chichen Itza socialised and held rituals was at the Sacred Cenote that we mentioned earlier. This is a stunning underground cave with a lake and rivers flowing through it. Here the Maya people would make sacrifices to the God, Chaac, and other Gods.

19. There are four cenotes around Chichen Itza that would have provided water for the Maya people and an underground link of rivers that fed into each other.

20. Scientists have determined that there is a hidden cenote under Kukulkan, the plumed serpent. This has never been seen by any archaeologists but we are sure one day they will find it and have plenty of new information.

21. Chichen Itza was an important pilgrimage site for over 1000 years!

Old wall at Chichen Itza with faces engraved in the stone bricks.
Image © DEZALB, Pixabay

How Old is the Chichen Itza?

22. Many of its most revered buildings were built during the Classic Period between 625 – 800 A.D!

23. The Chichen Itza Maya people were a diverse population, and were advanced as these Itza facts show. The Chichen Itza people were even able to acquire resources from places that weren't within their local reach. For example, gold from Southern America. This made Chichen Itza a strong and formidable force.

24. There are four cluster areas of Chichen Itza: the Great North Platform, the Ossario Group, the Central Group and the Old Chichen.

25. The Maya people honoured their own community through the Temple of the Warriors, which pays tribute to the people who defended the Yucatan Peninsula. This is an important structure and the Temple of the Warriors is painted in beautiful colours and carved illustrations to honour their community members.

26. We mentioned earlier that there are sources of water known as cenotes, and this is thought to be a reason that the Chichen Itza was created where it was. There was always a plentiful source of water for its community.

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