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The Castillo at Chichén Itzá


At the center of the Early Postclassic zone of Chichén Itzá is the Castillo, a massive  (60 x 61 m), four-sided pyramid  with stairways on each side, whose nine terraces reach 24 meters in elevation. This was built ca. AD 1000 over a smaller, Late Classic pyramid 16.6 meters high, with a Puuc-style temple on top. The earlier temple also had 9 tiers, but only a single stairway.

[Fig.1: The Castillo at Chichén Itzá (photo: Athena Review).]

Two monumental serpent heads flank the base of the main, northern staircase of the Postclassic Castillo, seen at left in the photo. At the top is a temple whose northern front has 3 doorways with serpent columns. As described by Landa in his 1566 Relación, "The room at the north is by itself, with a corridor of thick pillars. In the center is a sort of interior room...this served for burning the incense." Single doorways on the east, south, and west each had carved lintels of zapote wood, as Stephens noted in his 1841 visit. The Castillo was first restored during the Carnegie Institute project of the 1920s and 30s.


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