Archive for December, 2009

More Details Emerge about “Palace of the Maya” Near Chichen Itza

December 23rd, 2009 by ejalbright

Location of 'Palacio de Civilizacion Maya'

The state of Yucatan has released more details about the Palacio de la Civilizacion Maya, a “Disneyland devoted to Maya culture” slated for Yaxcaba, a small town in the center of the Yucatan Peninsula not far from Chichen Itza.

The Palacio will be constructed simultaneously with a sister project, the Museo de la Civilizacion Maya, a museum dedicated to the Maya civilization to be constructed in Merida. The state of Yucatan yesterday announced that a contract of almost $4 million Mexican for the design of the Museo has been awarded to a Yucatecan firm, 4-A Arquitectos. The Palacio design contract of $7 million went to another Yucatecan firm, I. Arquitectos, which designed the Discover Mexico tourist park in Cozumel (previously reported HERE and HERE).

As reported yesterday, the Palacio project will be constructed in stages. The first two galleries of six will be completed in 2011, at a cost of $300 million (Mexican), or $23.6 million U.S. The project will be built on almost 600 acres, much of it forested, which will be incorporated into the curriculum of the facility.

The International Herald Tribune published a nice summary of the project HERE.

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Chichen Itza Gold Going to New Yucatan Museum, Gov. Says

December 22nd, 2009 by ejalbright

Governor Ivonne Ortega Pacheco offers a prayer to a ceiba tree at Monday's groundbreaking in Yaxcaba
Praying to a ceiba tree. Photo by Diario de Yucatan

Governor Ivonne Ortega Pacheco laid the first stone for a new museum/interactive exhibit of the Maya in Yaxcaba and pledged that when completed, it would house the treasures from the Sacred Well of Chichen Itza.

In a speech commemorating the event, the governor declared the new facility, called “Palacio de la Civilizacion Maya,” would be “como un Disneylandia, pero con cultura” (“like a Disneyland, but with culture”).

The facility will consist of six large rooms, one of which would be dedicated to the treasures from the Cenote Sagrado, the Sacred Well of Chichen Itza. The governor did not say exactly what treasures she meant, as the material taken from the well is spread around North America. A few valuable pieces are in the Museo de Antropologia in Merida, but the bulk of the valuable material, the gold and carved jades, are in the National Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City, in the Peabody Museum at Harvard University, and even in the Field Museum in Chicago.

Other rooms in the Palacio will be devoted to the Maya world and its environment, to “miniatures” that represent the Mexican culture, another devoted to the Maya religion, and finally a room of audio-visual exhibits. In the latter room, visitors will be able to interact with exhibits that will demonstrate Maya astronomy, enable them to virtually hunt a deer, or witness the sacrifice of a maiden into a cenote, the governor said.

As is typical with these sort of events, the governor had hundreds bussed in from the surrounding communities. Yaxcaba in the first half of the 19th century was one of the most prosperous cities in Yucatan, but today it is one of the poorest. The region had been devastated during the War of the Castes, one of the most successful indigenous revolts in North America. From 1847 until the turn of the century the Maya of the southeastern Yucatan Peninsula successfully rebelled against the Mexican government. After the war, the region surrounding Yaxcaba never fully recovered.

Earlier this year, the governor pledged that she would build a “Palacio de la Civilizacion Maya” at Yaxcaba. This museum was originally to be located at Chichen Itza, some 20 kilometers away as the crow flies, but more than 40 by car.

According to the governor, the “Palacio” will draw more than 500,000 additional tourists each year.

Before the governor’s speech, the site was blessed by a Maya priest, called a “h’men.” The facility will be located next to a cenote, and the governor made a symbolic offering to the cenote, which the ancient Maya believe was a portal to the underworld. She also said a prayer while touching a ceiba tree, also sacred to ancient Maya.

The first phase of two rooms of the Palacio will be completed in the next 18 months, the governor said.

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Happy Solstice! What to see at Chichen Itza …

December 21st, 2009 by ejalbright

Light-and-shadow effect on Ossario during winter solstice

Today is the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year in the northern hemisphere, and if you happen to be around Chichen Itza over the next couple of days there are at least two ways you can see how Maya may have captured the event using light and shadows on their monuments.

If you happen to be around El Castillo, the great pyramid, between 4 p.m. and 5 p.m., walk around it and you will see two sides of the pyramid bathed in sunlight and two are engulfed in shadow.

But if that doesn’t impress you, wander down to the Ossario, a smaller pyramid that has been reconstructed only in the last 20 years. There you will see an abbreviated example of the same shadow-and-light effect that occurs on El Castillo during the spring and fall equinox. The edge of the pyramid projects a shadow against the balustrade, making it appear as if the feathered serpent god, Kukulcan, is wriggling down the face of the pyramid (see photo above).

No one knows for sure if the Maya oriented these monuments to take advantage of the placement of the sun on the solstices and equinoxes. But the Maya were excellent astronomers, so it is more than possible that these effects were intentional.

The sun will set today at Chichen Itza at 5:23 p.m.

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Elton John on Collision Course with Archaeology at Chichen Itza?

December 18th, 2009 by ejalbright

Elton John at Chichen Itza April 3, 2010


Recent archaeological discoveries at Chichen Itza may imperil the Elton John concert scheduled for April next year, a Yucatecan news service reports.

According to Tribuna, recent excavations in Great Platform next to the giant pyramid El Castillo may mean the April 3, 2010 concert with Sir Elton John will have to be cancelled.

The news report quotes Rafael Cobos Palma, general coordinator of archaeology at Chichen Itza and leader of the “Grand Leveling” project which is digging throughout Chichen Itza to determine how the ancient city evolved.

The various pits that have been excavated in the Great Platform are not far from where the concert will be staged. Cobos reportedly told Tribuna that these pits will not be filled by the time of the concert as there is still much to be learned from them. Currently a multi-disciplinary team from INAH, the federal agency in charge of Mexico’s ruins, and Universidad Autónoma de Yucatán, a university in Merida, are studying the data from the digging which began in February. Furthermore, the pits will likely never be filled, given the “didactic and academic importance” of the substructures that have been exposed, and how they demonstrate the importance of Chichen Itza as a Maya cosmopolitan city.

Cobos’s comments have to date only been reported in Tribuna. However, it is well known that leadership at INAH has long opposed holding concerts at Chichen Itza but has consistently been ignored by other agencies, both state and federal. When it was announced that Placido Domingo was to perform at Chichen Itza in fall of 2008, INAH’s advisory committee openly opposed the concert, but only managed to win concessions restricting the size of the concert and the construction of the stage.

In the meantime, tickets have gone on sale for the Elton John concert at Chichen Itza. They are currently only available in Mexico and only by telephone, (+42) 999/942-19-33 and (+42) 999/942-19-31. The prices for tickets are similar to October’s Sarah Brightman concert, $10,000 (Mexican pesos), $7,500, $5,000, $3,000, $2,000, and $1,000.

[UPDATE] Tribuna reports that it has spoken with officials in Cultur, the agency in Yucatan state government sponsoring the concert, and they have said that excavation at Chichen Itza will not affect the concert, as it is being held in the same place where the Sarah Brightman concert in October was performed, between El Castillo and the Great Ball Court. The excavation has been conducted on the other side of El Castillo, between the giant pyramid and the Temple of the Warriors.

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Preliminary Report: New Research Expands Size of Chichen Itza

December 14th, 2009 by ejalbright

Mexican archaeologists find new structures at Chichen Itza

Chichen Itza is much bigger and more recent than previously thought, Mexican researchers announced last week.

Archaeologists in the past year have uncovered some 350 previously unknown structures, according to Rafael Cobos, the general coordinator of archaeology at Chichen Itza. Cobos works for INAH, the federal agency that oversees archaeological ruins in Mexico.

Most of the structures were found directly southwest of the previously mapped parts of the city, and contain at least 10 sacbes, a type of paved road used by the ancient Maya. These newly identified structures bring the total for all of Chichen Itza to 1,000.

One of the new structures is a ball court, which brings the total to 11 found so far in Chichen Itza. Teams also mapped several cenotes (natural sinkholes) and caves, and researchers have found ceremonial items similar to those found at the Cenote Sagrado (Well of Sacrifice), indicating that ritual practices extended throughout the region.

Since February, teams of archaeologists and laborers have been excavating and mapping throughout Chichen Itza to gather data to determine how the ancient city evolved. Much is known about the period during which it flourished, but less is known about the ancient city’s beginnings in the 7th and 8th centuries.

Cobos also revealed that recent studies of the Great Ball Court indicate that it was built after the period archaeologists believe was the ancient city’s peak. According to Cobos, researchers have found evidence that indicates it was built in the 12th century, not the 10th or 11th century when Chichen Itza was believed to have been flourishing. These are the conclusions reached by a multi-disciplinary group of specialists from the Universidad Autonoma de Yucatan that have studied data taken from Chichen Itza, he said.

To build the ball court the Maya had to tear down a wall that stood to the west of El Castillo, the great pyramid, Cobos said. This was part of an era that has been called the Gran Nivelacion (Great Leveling), when the Great Platform that included El Castillo and the Temple of Warriors was extended to the north and west, and the Maya constructed the Great Ball Court and the Platform of Venus.

The level the landscape, the Maya brought it rocks and other fill material (all by human power) to bring the ground level to a consistent height. They covered over previous platforms and structures, and filled in holes as deep as 3.5 meters.

The first official report from this year’s excavations and research will be released in spring of next year, Cobos said.

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Karl Pilkington Coming to Chichen Itza

December 10th, 2009 by ejalbright

Karl Pilkington is coming to Chichen Itza

For much of the civilized world, the headline “Karl Pilkington Coming to Chichen Itza” will be as exciting as porridge. But for the few million who have delighted over Karl’s observations during his podcasts with Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant, the creators of the worldwide phenomenon “The Office,” this is the biggest news all year.

Pilkington, who, according to Gervais, “has a head like a [expletive deleted] orange,” will travel the world to visit the new Seven Wonders of the World, selected by a worldwide vote in 2007. Pilkington got the job as travel journalist because he admitted that even though he had never seen any of the seven wonders, he thought they all were “a bit [expletive deleted].”

Beginning next month, Pilkington will visit Chichen Itza and the other wonders — the Great Wall of China, Christ the Redeemer over Rio de Janeiro, Petra in Jordan, Macchu Picchu in Peru, and the Taj Mahal in India — as well as the only member of the original Seven Wonders of the World, the Great Pyramid in Egypt.

The show, called “Karl Pilkington’s Wonders of the World,” is being produced by the international satellite service Sky1.

For a peek into the mind of Karl Pilkington, watch this (WARNING: NSFW):

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Boxing Match Slated for Chichen Itza Feb. 15

December 2nd, 2009 by ejalbright

Guty Espadas

Former world champion featherweight boxer Gustavo “Guty“ Espadas Jr. announced he will come out of retirement and attempt to retake the title currently held by Dominican Elio Rojas on Feb. 15 at Chichen Itza.

According to the Diario de Yucatan, Espadas, a native of Yucatan, revealed plans for the bout at an event in Maxcanu, a town southwest of Merida, the capital of Yucatan state. The former fighter said that the fight is not official, but he has been training to get back into shape to retake the title.

Espadas Jr. won the title in 2000 by beating Luisito Espinosa of the Phillipines. He lost it the following year to Erik Morales in a fight that many believed Espadas Jr. had won. In 2003 he fought Morales to retake the title, but was knocked out. He retired in 2004 after being knocked out in the second round by Rocky Juarez.

The Merida-born fighter told the crowd in Maxcanu that the fight will be televised to a potential audience of 900 million people.

If what Espadas Jr. says is correct, this will be the first time Chichen Itza has been the site of a sporting event. Four years ago organizers of an archery tournament wanted to hold it at the ancient city but were refused. However, in recent years, the state of Yucatan has been actively working to hold such events at Chichen Itza. In October the soprano Sarah Brightman performed a concert at the foot of the giant pyramid El Castillo and this spring Elton John is scheduled to perform, followed by Paul McCartney in 2011.

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It’s for Real … Giant Development Planned for Chichen Itza

December 1st, 2009 by ejalbright

Seeing is believing, and yesterday a video of the proposed convention center development for Chichen Itza was released on YouTube:

The size and scope of this project is staggering. Twelve hotels, a convention center, artificial beaches, a giant aquarium, spas, restaurants, shopping.

The video has been posted by a self-described social activist who goes by the screen name P3epe. He reports on the Noticias desde Merida Web site that the video was originally posted by a YouTube user Charlito52, who has since taken it down.

“Maybe it was the fact that [the video] received national attention or my harsh comments on the video (which undoubtedly made ill the person who put it up), but clearly wanted to erase them from memory. These [YouTube] accounts are, no doubt, somehow linked to the government or investors. They wanted to be ‘found’ but without negative reactions,” P3epe writes.

P3epe has posted the video around the Internet.

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