The Whole Picture: El Castillo at Chichen Itza

| January 4, 2012 | 0 Comments
elcastillochichenitza The Whole Picture: El Castillo at Chichen Itza

El Castillo at Chichen Itza in the Yucatan, Mexico.

El Castillo (Spanish for “castle”), also known as the Temple of Kukulkan, is a step-pyramid that dominates the centre of the Yucatan’s Chichen Itza site. Built by the pre-Columbian Maya sometime between the ninth and twelfth centuries, El Castillo served as a temple to the god Kukulkan, a Mayan deity that resembled a feathered serpent.

Consisting of a series of terraces with stairways up each of its four sides, sculptures of plumed serpents run down the sides of the the pyrimad’s northern facing side. During the spring and autumn equinoxes, the late afternoon sun illuminates the northwest corner and casts a series of shadows against the temple’s face—which creates the illusion of a feathered serpent “crawling” down the pyramid.

Recently, a theory that the ancient Mayans built their pyramids to produce strange and evocative echoes has been supported by a team of scientists. Researchers have shown that sound waves ricocheting around the tiered steps of the pyramid create sounds that mimic the chirp of a bird and the patter of raindrops. As our guide illustrated, the aforementioned ‘chirp’ can be triggered by a clap made at the base of the staircase.

Inspired by publications like Life Magazine, National Geographic and online experiences like’s photo blog, images marked as ‘The Whole Picture’  are intended to highlight high-quality, amazing imagery. Kathryn and Daniel will post ‘The Whole Picture‘ irregulary.  Like all of our photos, it is an original photo not otherwise on the site—it might be fresh from our camera, a new scan of some old film, a product of our fooling around with Photoshop, or a file from the archive that we haven’t posted yet.

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About the Author (Author Profile)

For nearly ten years now, Daniel of Two Go Round-The-World has explored how travel captures our imagination and engages our deepest emotions. One half of the duo that maintains the widely read Two Go Round-The-World blog, Daniel treats his subjects not only as works of art but also as symbols of the cultural and political forces that inspire them. His latest book, The Physics of Flocking, gathers his favourite writing featured over the past two years on Two Go Round-The-World in columns like 'Looking Back' and 'The Whole Picture'—along with new reflections.

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