Short-lived prosperity and violent sports
A lot of mystery shrouds the Mayans and the ancient city of Chichen Itza. While the precise dates differ, depending on which source you consult, the history goes something like this: Between 500 A.D. and 900 A.D., Chichen Itza was the site of a prosperous and large Mayan community. It was abandoned in 900 A.D., and then somewhat resettled in 1000 - 1200 A.D., this time with a Toltec influence. The Mayans never regained their former prosperity. The civilization dwindled and the Mayans completely abandoned the city for good in 1500 A.D. The reason for their dramatic decline and ultimate disappearance is speculative, at best. It could have been due to disease brought by European explorers, slaughtering of the natives by the Spanish, tribal wars, or all of the above -- no one is absolutely certain.
In this picture, you will see the Temple of the Jaguars and Eagles, as seen from the top of the Pyramid. Behind the Temple is the Ball Court. Most of the major Mayan sites have their own Ball Court. The ruins of Chichen Itza show that there were 13 such ball courts at this location.
The ball games played here were rather gruesome. Players played to the death, although the object of the game isn't known today. It was possibly played to punish the losers by death. Or it was played to sacrifice winners to the gods. Either way, Mayan ball games make US Major League Baseball seem mild in comparison -- assaults on the players by fans notwithstanding.
It's all Mayan to me
The top of the pyramid is covered with ancient Mayan carvings. I dutifully spent a long time contemplating the carvings, rather than thinking about the fact that I would have to, at some point, descend down the pyramid.
I read that the Mayans used to punish people by throwing them down the pyramid. I tried not to think about this little historical tidbit either while I was at the top of the pyramid.
A coral reef is very close to shore and the sea is usually quite calm making it a favorite location for snorkeling or scuba divers.
There are aaalso fishing trips and tours through the mangroves, where you will see many birds.
This is also the only place where you can catch the car ferry to Cozumel.
This park and zoo was once a commercial farm for raising and selling crocodiles. It is now a tourist attraction that has a number different local species of animals on display.
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