This little figure is part of the decoration on the Temple of the Warriors in the Maya ruins of Chichén Itzá, Mexico:
I’m not sure how tall he is, since he’s mounted at a significant height off the ground, and can’t be seen from up close — you need a reasonably long lens and some perspective correction software to get a shot like this. Still, if you look closely, you can see that the figure is emerging from the jaws of a feathered serpent, with most of the serpent’s details carved in bas-relief into the building’s stones.
One of the iconic sites at the ancient Maya ruins of Chichén Itzá, seen from its north end looking to the south:
For some reason, this view doesn’t show up as often as does its opposite from the south end of the field. Still, you can really get a feel for the ball court’s size — particularly since those are two people just to the right of this two-frame panorama’s center.
The “marquis” structure at the ancient Maya ruins of Chichén Itzá, El Castillo (a.k.a. the Pyramid of Kukulkan):
What most tourist brochure photos don’t show you, though, are its two faces. The pyramid’s north and west sides have been fully restored (so, look as close to “new” as we can get), while the south and east sides have just been consolidated and stabilized (and so, look rougher). In the shot above, north is to the right — the pyramid’s north face is what you’ll most often see on postcards and such.
This is the north face of El Castillo (a.k.a., the Temple of Kukulkan) at the ruins of Chichén Itzá in Yucatán, Mexico:
It’s pretty much the image you see of this structure on postcards, calendars, T-shirts, and the like — and it’s harder to capture than you might think. Since it’s a “marquis” structure at one of the most visited of Maya ruins, everybody wants to get their picture taken in front of it. So if you want a “clean” photograph (i.e., no tourists) of the structure, you’ll have to do what I did — take a dozen or so photos of the thing, then use Photoshop Elements to combine them.
At the foot of the stairs on the north face of El Castillo, in the Maya ruins of Chichén Itzá, Mexico:
Should you make it to Chichén Itzá, just remember — you can walk right up to the steps, but don’t even think about climbing them. Not that many years ago (until 2006), you could climb these to check out the temple at the top (and take in a fantastic view). But sadly, somebody slipped and fell down the stairs (to their death) — the structure’s been off-limits ever since.
And by Great, they do mean Great — this is the largest ball court in the Maya realm. It’s so large, in fact, that archaeologists think it may not have been useable for the ball game — instead being used for ceremonies associated with the game. Meanwhile, Chichén Itzá has plenty of other (smaller) ball courts that could have been used for the regular game.
This is the northwest corner of El Castillo in Chichén Itzá, Mexico:
El Castillo is a bit of a funny thing — half of it has been restored to nearly what it once looked like (or at least, so it’s thought locally — although some writers are skeptical about the accuracy of its current form). Meanwhile, the other two faces have just been consolidated. So if you want a pretty picture of the structure, the north and west sides are the ones to use.
By the way, I’ve got a bunch of Maya shots languishing over in my Flickr stream — so to get them a bit more visibility, I’ll be getting them in blog posts here over the next week or two. Prepare for an onslaught of ruin(s)!