The two faces of El Castillo

The “marquis” structure at the ancient Maya ruins of Chichén Itzá, El Castillo (a.k.a. the Pyramid of Kukulkán):

The two faces of El Castillo

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.

El Castillo

This is the north face of El Castillo (a.k.a., the Temple of Kukulkan) at the ruins of Chichén Itzá in Yucatán, Mexico:

El Castillo

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 serpent’s mouth

At the foot of the stairs on the north face of El Castillo, in the Maya ruins of Chichén Itzá, Mexico:

At the serpent's mouth

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.

Tzompantli

Some details from Chichén Itzá‘s Tzompantli (“Wall of Skulls,” a.k.a. skull rack):

Tzompantli

The Tzompantli is a big platform, ringed by these carved skulls in multiple rows — supposedly no two are alike. I processed this monochromatically to help bring out the texture of the surface.

The Great Ball Court

In the Maya ruins of Chichén Itzá, Yucatán, Mexico:

The Great Ball Court

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.

El Castillo

This is the northwest corner of El Castillo in Chichén Itzá, Mexico:

El Castillo

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)!