The Ancient City of Chichen Itza



Jeff Stvan, via Flickr

Joshua Leo and Liz Waid visit the history of Chichen Itza. It was a Mayan city, located in southern Mexico.

Transcript


Voice 1 

Welcome to Spotlight. I’m Joshua Leo.

Voice 2 

And I’m Liz Waid. Spotlight uses a special English method of broadcasting. It is easier for people to understand, no matter where in the world they live.

Voice 1 

On two days every year, most places on earth experience 12 hours of light, and 12 hours of darkness. These two days are the Spring Equinox and the Fall Equinox.

Voice 2 

On these two days something special happens in the ancient city of Chichen Itza. The sun shines on one of the large and ancient stone structures built here. On this particular structure, it appears as if a snake made of light is moving slowly down the wall.

Voice 1 

This special effect depends on exact measuring of the sun’s position. Experts think that ancient people called the Maya built this structure, and the city, many years ago. Experts say that the Maya’s knowledge of the sun’s position is unusual.

Voice 2

Today’s Spotlight is on the ancient city of Chichen Itza. This city is in southern Mexico. Thousands of years ago Chichen Itza was full of people. It was one of the most powerful cities of one of the most powerful ancient cultures - the Maya. But today, no one lives there. It is only a group of old buildings. However, people from around the world still come to see it. People come to learn about its ancient culture, the culture of the Maya people.

Voice 1 

The Mayan culture began almost 3,000 years ago. It grew in parts of Central America. Today we know this area as the countries of Honduras, Mexico, Guatemala, and Belize.

Voice 2 

The Maya were skilled in many areas. Experts believe the Maya were excellent farmers. They also believe that the Maya created a complex written language. This may have been the first written language to come from the Americas. The Maya were also very good at mathematics. Their number system included the number “zero.” Mathematics experts say that using the number zero was an amazing thing. Other ancient cultures of the time did not use this number.

Voice 1 

However, people may know the Maya best for their calendar. A calendar separates time into different lengths, like months, days and minutes. Making a very exact calendar is extremely difficult. But the Maya used their knowledge of mathematics and their interest in the stars to build a calendar. They carefully observed the movements of the sun, moon, and planets. This knowledge helped them to create their calendar.

Voice 2 

Other cultures also influenced and helped build parts of Chichen Itza. After a few hundred years, the Maya had left their city. They did return later. But then about 1,000 years ago a group called the Toltecs invaded the Maya. They did not conquer the Maya. Instead, the two cultures lived together. They even began to combine parts of their religious ceremonies. The Toltecs ruled the city for about 300 years. But they left the city. No one knows why.

Voice 1 

A little later, the Itza invaded the city.  The Itza were invaders from a different area. The Itza built new parts of the city. And they gave the city its name. The name “Chichen Itza” means “mouth of the well of the Itza”. However, the Itza did not rule the city very long. They left Chichen Itza after about 25 years. Again, no one knows why the Itza left.

Voice 2 

Experts know that the Toltecs and Itza built some of the buildings in the city of Chichen Itza. They used many images of their god in their building designs. The Toltecs and Itza worshipped the same god. Their god looked like a snake, but with feathers like a bird. In the beginning of this program we told you about a snake of light that climbs the wall of an ancient building. The snake of light is an image of this god.

Voice 1 

This interesting structure in Chichen Itza is the Pyramid of Kukulcan. A pyramid has four sides. These sides all come together at one point at the top. Each side on the Pyramid of Kukulcan has 91 steps. And there is one more step at the top of the pyramid. In all, there are 365 steps on the pyramid. This is the same as the number of days in a year. Some experts believe the Maya could have used this building to help them know when to plant crops. Each day the sun falls on a different step of the pyramid. This could be a way to follow the year.

Voice 2 

The people of Chichen Itza especially designed one building to observe and study the movement of the stars and planets. This building is the observatory. Experts say that the observatory is one of the most complex structures the Maya built. A set of steps went up and around and around the observatory tower. The steps made the observatory tower look like a large shell - like a snail’s shell. The top of the observatory tower was a dome, that is, it was shaped like a half circle. And there were windows in the tower. Each window had a purpose. Experts believe that a person looking through one of these windows could see particular stars on particular dates. The Maya may have believed that studying the stars could tell them the future.

But Chichen Itza was not only ancient buildings and studying stars. The citizens of Chichen Itza also had their own very popular ball games! Chichen Itza had the largest game area, or court, in Central America. The Maya probably played a game that was a little like football. Pictures of past games cover the walls of the ball court. But these pictures also show some violent events in these games. One picture even shows an official cutting off a man’s head in the centre of the game court.

Voice 1 

Around the year 1300, the Itza people left the city. Experts do not know why they left. Some Maya people still lived there. In 1517 Spanish invaders tried to invade the area around Chichen Itza. The Maya resisted for a time. But they could not resist the Spanish for long. The Spanish finally defeated the Maya. Sadly, Spanish invaders later destroyed many historical documents. So, we may never know the full history of Chichen Itza.

Voice 2 

Today, people from all over the world visit the ancient ruins of Chichen Itza. The Secretary of Tourism in Mexico says that over a million tourists visit Chichen Itza every year. Large crowds gather at the Pyramid of Kukulcan to watch the snake of light climb. They see the carefully designed buildings. But today, the ruins will not be destroyed. Chichen Itza is a UNESCO World Heritage site, an important part of the world’s history.

Voice 1 

The writer and producer of this program was Liz Waid. The voices you heard were from the United States. You can listen to this program again, and read it, on the internet at www.radioenglish.net. This program is called, “The Ancient City of Chichen Itza”.

Voice 2 

You can also leave your comments on our website. And find us on Facebook - just search for spotlightradio. We hope you can join us again for the next Spotlight program. Goodbye.

Question:

Are you interested in history? Do you know the history of your country and it's people?

Comments


Luis Piedra's avatar
Luis Piedra
said on January 04, 2013

A grand culture.
Good Program

Avatar Spotlight
shinichi kudo
said on March 24, 2014

I learned many things so good. thank page.

Avatar Spotlight
kenhieuloilam
said on March 27, 2014

We go to perfection. History leaves us big lessons. We develop beautiful good things. We keep away from not good things. The beauties existed in the past. We love the beauties of the past. The beauties exist at present. We love the beauties of present. We desire to live a beautiful good life. We desire to go to the beautiful. The beauties need to be developed. The beauties need to be preserved.

Avatar Spotlight
Dela
said on March 28, 2014

I have read about these amazing, mysterious places many times and I’ve watched a lot of documentary movies too. I would like to see the ancient ruins of Chichen Itza someday.
Thanks for excellent article!

Avatar Spotlight
Huong Lan
said on March 30, 2014

How an interesting story is! Thanks Spotlight to open my mind!

Avatar Spotlight
Jimmy Roberto Espinoza Mercado
said on March 31, 2014

The existence of the mayan ruins of Chichen itza, the ancient city located at Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico point out the extraordinary knowledge that Maya people had. Although it has not still been revealed, for current world, in full. May be in the future researcher get to discover more facts about this ancestral reality. Thank you!