Even the world’s best-known archaeological sites still have secrets to reveal.
That’s a message underscored by the latest news out of Chichen Itza, one of the largest Maya cities in Mesoamerica and among the defining landmarks not only of the Yucatan Peninsula but of the whole pre-Columbian geography of the Americas.
Researchers have made an astonishing discovery within the mighty heart of the 1,000-plus-year-old metropolis, the iconic El Castillo (the Castle) step-pyramid: a third pyramid deep within it.
El Castillo’s Innards
In the mid-1930s, archaeologists found a second pyramid inside 79-foot-tall El Castillo (sometimes called the Temple of Kukulkan), an inner chamber now called “Substructure 1.” This inner pyramid, thought to have been built sometime between 800 and 1,000 C.E., contains some striking features, including a red jaguar throne spotted with jade and one of the so-called Chac Mool statues: the effigy of a reclining man with a turned head and a hand clutching a bowl.
The new pyramid, Superstructure 2, lies inside Superstructure 1, which now can be thought of as the middle pyramid in what the lead researcher, Rene Chavez Seguro, describes as a kind of Russian-nesting-doll composition to El Castillo. There looks to be a ramp and potentially an altar inside the third pyramid, discovered using a brand-new noninvasive imaging method that’s got a real mouthful of a name: “tri-dimensional electric resistivity tomography.” (Superstructure 1 was discovered the old-fashioned way: through excavation.)
What We Know About the New Sub-Pyramid
Archaeologists already have some intriguing insights into the innermost pyramid, according to CNN. It appears to date from the first major stage of Chichen Itza’s history, the “pure Mayan” interval, perhaps 550 to 800 C.E. The younger second, or middle, pyramid may date from a time when, some scientists suspect, the city was occupied by a group influenced by the Toltec culture of Central Mexico.
Also, the newly discovered pyramid is off-center within El Castillo, and its location seems to correspond with a cenote (sinkhole) that was identified just last year underlying the Temple of Kukulkan.
Amazing stuff! There’s still a great deal we don’t know about Chichen Itza and the chronology of the pre-Columbian Maya civilization, so the discovery of this third interior pyramid at El Castillo is momentous.
Visit Chichen Itza Next Time You Stay at Privilege Aluxes
When you stay with us at Privilege Aluxes, you’re treading sacred ground to the Maya: Isla Mujeres was associated with that civilization’s esteemed fertility and midwifery goddess, Ixchel. And given our island lies within the Yucatan cultural sphere, we’re deeply tied to the peninsula. All the more given the latest find, why not plan a double-header of a trip for 2017: Isla Mujeres and Chichen Itza?