On boxing day, we jumped on the bike and went to nearby Mayan ruins at Dzibilchaltún (it means “place where there is writing on stones” in Mayan)- try saying- tzee-beel-chahl-TOON. Following the ever good advise of Ray and Sherry, we hired a guide to take us through the ruins. He was very knowledgeable about the area, and had lots of pictures of the place taken during the spring and fall equinoxes.
As is common in Mayan communities, this place is laid out with strict reference to the sun. The main east/west sak be (road) of the old community ends at a building called the Temple of the Seven Dolls. It was named that because when they were uncovering it, they found 7 dolls there. 6 of the dolls looked female, and one was without doubt a male. His penis is actually longer than he is tall. It made me wonder about a guy I spoke to in Mérida. He was kind of a pushy salesman; and to try and throw him off, I pointed to a bevy of young beauties that were walking by. He didn’t miss a beat, and explained that Mayan men have 6 women. One for each day of the week, and one day just to be spent alone. I wonder if there was indeed a connection.
As you look down the main road at the Temple of Seven Dolls, on the 21st of March, and the 22nd of September, the sun will shine through the main window of the Temple as it rises. There is also some relationship with Venus shining through at specific times as well. Our guide showed us pictures, but I didn’t understand what the frequency of the occurrence was. Also, the first full moon after the spring equinox sits exactly atop the point of the structure.
The main plaza has a long pyramid along its southern boundary. It is believed that the nobles sat atop here during various sporting and musical events. If you stand in the center of the plaza and clap your hands, you can hear exactly 7 echos. It is amazing how well the acoustics here channel even the smallest sound to the pyramid. While not all are uncovered, this site contains 8400 structures, covering almost 9 square kms. It is believed that at one time this was home to 20,000 people, with another 20,000 living in the area, making it one of the largest ancient cities in Mesoamerica.
One building does not belong. There is an opened ended church, built with a definite Roman arch. It was built by the Spaniards, using materials from the existing structure. The Mayans also used an arch in their construction, but it was kind of pointed at the top, and shaped on the side walls. Sorry, I do not have a picture of a good example.
There is also a Cenote (syn-O-tay) at Dzibilchaltún. A Cenote is like a sink hole, and is where the people of the Yucatán get their water. There are no above ground rivers on the Yucatán. They are flowing about 20 feet under your feet. The peninsula is formed mainly from limestone, and it has cracks and fissures running through it. Mayan towns were usually built near or around a Cenote. It is kind of odd for us; having lived on the prairies. A sink hole, or slew is stagnant brackish water. Cenotes are crystal clear, and are really just exposed portions of underground rivers. In some of them, you crawl through a hole in the ground, and it opens into an underground oasis.
The Cenote at Dzibilchaltún is called Xlacah (ish-LAH-cha) meaning “old people” in Mayan. It is fairly typical; about 2-4 feet deep on one end, and over 140 feet deep on the other. It then goes into an underground river that has been followed for about 1000 feet! It is a popular swimming hole, and is full of little fish. If you sit at one end with your feet in the water, they will come and nibble at the salt and dead skin. I had a hard time getting a picture of Barbie doing it, because she is really ticklish, and kept pulling her feet out, and giggling.
The scale of these sites are just amazing, and there are dozens of sites in Mexico alone. We really enjoyed our day here, and continue to be awed by everything we learn about the Mayan people. We look forward to each new discovery.