Chichen Itza is one of the Seven Wonders of the World and is a historic site situated in Yucatan, Mexico. While most people realize that Chichen Itza was built by the Mayans thousands of years ago, there are many things tourists don't realize about this marvelous attraction. Chichen Itza refers to an archeological site, not the pyramid within it, which is the site's most popular tourist attraction. The pyramid itself was built to serve as a temple and a castle and is known as El Castillo - and there is a whole lot more that you may want to know about both the site and the pyramid before you visit. 

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10 It Was Discovered Twice

One thing most people do not know about Chichen Itza is that it was discovered twice. In 514 AD, a priest by the name of Lakin Chan discovered the site that is known as Chichen Itza. It is believed that Chan was also referred to as Itzamna. Chichen Itza translates as “at the mouth of the well of the Itza.” Over the years, following its abandonment, Chichen Itza was lost and Mexico fell into turmoil and was ravaged by a series of wars. In 1841, American Explorer John Lloyd Stephens stumbled upon this site once again and turned it over to Mexico.

9 It Was Used As An Observatory

The Chichen Itza is a marvelous site due to its rich architecture and historical value, but it also houses evidence that the Mayans were definitely ahead of their time. For starters, the Chichen Itza housed craftsmen, artisans, and scholars, and was by no means a civilization of simple people. The Mayans were people of science and math and especially excelled in the field of astronomy. For this reason, tourists can visit the Mayan observatory known as El Caracol, which once was used by the Mayans to gaze into the heavens and study the motions of Venus.

8 It's Built With Diverse Materials

The pyramids of Chichen Itza have been a popular attraction for ages, but now they are being questioned, or rather, the method in which they were built is. Historians have analyzed the buildings and structures located within this site and have found a variety of diverse materials which do not originate locally in Yucatan, Mexico. One of these materials is mica, which was used by the Mayans during construction to insulate their buildings, but there is one problem. Mica is found 2,000 miles away from the pyramids in Brazil, and scientists are baffled as to how it was transported without vehicles.

7 It Was Built Near Sinkholes

Another thing most people do not know about Chichen Itza is that it was built near sinkholes. While your first reaction to reading that might be of confusion or worry, there was a very good reason for the Mayans establishing their community near two sinkholes. The area is generally spotted with numerous sinkholes in the limestone earth and is stable. They actually provided the only source of freshwater to the people of the area as there are no rivers or lakes nearby. Therefore, Chichen Itza was built near two massive sinkholes to ensure water availability year-round. These sinkholes are called cenotes and have clean water in them.

6 It Is Being Restored

One thing most people find surprising about the buildings in the Chichen Itza, particularly El Castillo is the incredible condition it is in after all these centuries. This is due to the restoration projects headed by the Mexican government and some universities to ensure these structures stand the test of time. 

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Restoration efforts began in 1923 when Sylvanus Morley, an archaeologist, headed an expedition to the pyramid and realized it had suffered a great deal of decay. After gaining entrance to the pyramid, restoration efforts were started and continue to this day, due to this El Castillo is stronger than ever.

5 It May Have Been Used For Sacrifices

Next up on this list is a morbid fact about Chichen Itza which is not entirely butterflies and rainbows. The Mayans were peaceful and smart people but also believed in curses and sacrifice to the gods they worshiped. The sinkholes mentioned above were frequently used for sacrifices during times of adversity such as a drought or famine. The Mayans would choose a person to be sacrificed to the gods in hopes that this would bring them luck. In addition to sacrifices, the Mayans were also big fans of death penalties, which were gruesome and publicized to maintain order and spread fear.

4 It Isn't Entirely Mayan

Next up is a fact that startles most people when they hear it, and it truly is shocking. Historians suggest that this famous Mayan community may not have been entirely Mayan, and that is true. The Chechen Itza was built in two stages, the Pre-Classic and a latter period. The Pre-Classic period was greatly influenced by the Mayans, but following an invasion of Toltecs in the 10th century, this all changed. As a matter of fact, the most iconic buildings of the Chichen Itza, such as the Temple pyramid El Castillo may have been built by the Toltecs, and not the Mayans.

3 There Are Smaller Pyramids Within

While the huge pyramid of El Castillo looms at a whopping 98 feet, it is, in fact, hiding something beneath it. Within the pyramid are two smaller pyramids that stand at 65.5 feet and 33 feet. The smallest of the three pyramids is believed to have been built by the Mayans, as it features a unique, Colombian-style architecture style while the other pyramids have Mexican influences in them. Scientists are studying the smaller pyramid to learn more about the ways of the Mayans as the ways of the Toltecs is shown on El Castillo with its carvings and sculptures.

2 There Was A Death At The Itza

Tourists at the Chichen Itza are frequently disappointed to know that they cannot climb to the top of the pyramid, and here is why. Until 2006, tourists were allowed to climb to the top of El Castillo to gaze upon the sculptures at the top. That was until an American tourist stumbled on her way down and fell to her death. These accidents are increasingly common and for this reason, the steps of El Castillo are restricted. In addition to providing an added layer of safety to tourists, this ensures the structure will not be damaged by the feet of hundreds of thousands of tourists climbing the steps.

1 Chichen Itza's Glory Declined Mysteriously

Lastly, this once great empire met its sudden doom when the Mayans who once inhabited this land mysteriously left in the 14th century and never returned to it once again. The Chichen Itza was a symbol of perseverance and power to the Mayans who had moved around, ravaged by warfare until settling in the Itza, and their civilization was one of the most advanced of its time, but it met its sudden end due to a series of issues such as drought and famine. After the fall of Chichen Itza, the Mayans persevered in the North till the 16th century.

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