Arizona Faces and Features Chichen Itza In today’s Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico, one of the great cities of the Maya culture has been uncovered from the dense jungle. It is called Chichen Itza (chee-cha nee-sa). By the year 600 a.d. it was the largest and most powerful Mayan city of the Yucatan. One of the most amazing structures of Chichen Itza is the Temple of Kukulan. Kukulan was the Maya name for the Toltec god, Quetzalcoatl. The temple is often called El Castillo—the castle. The castle is in the shape of a foursided pyramid. It is 75 feet tall. Ninetyone steps lead to a temple located at the top. At the base, two large, stone snake heads guard the staircase that leads to the temple. The Mayans were great astronomers and had excellent calendars. They were also great builders. So good were they at building, that on the first day of spring and fall (the equinox) the sun casts shadows on the staircase, making visible a snake’s body from the stone heads to the temple at the top of the castle. Another great feature of Chichen Itza is the ball court. The ball court measures 545 feet long and 232 feet wide. It is the largest ball court in Mesoamerica. Glyphs of ball players in padded uniforms are carved in the stone walls that line the large playing field. r r The great ball court of Chichen Itza. Chapter 4 • Arizona Faces and Features  47