Lecture given by Dr. Simon Martin, Associate Curator and Keeper of Collections, American Section. Every spring and autumn equinox thousands of people gather at the base of “El Castillo”—the pyramid at the heart of one of the ancient America’s most famous and evocative cities: Chichen Itza. They come to marvel at the skill of ancient astronomers in aligning their structure in such a way that the sun casts a diamond-back shadow of a giant serpent down one of its staircases. They also come to peer into the depths of the great sinkhole known as the “Well of Sacrifice,” and wander through the expanses of the “Great Ballcourt,” the largest in the New World. Chichen Itza is a truly remarkable place, but the story behind it has hardly been told. There is a hidden history to these ruins and the biggest secret of all is that this great Maya metropolis is not very Maya at all. To understand the city properly it will be necessary to debunk the myths and take a journey into the symbolism behind its every carved stone—revealing its true designers and their ancient purpose.
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