Tourists who flock to the Riviera Maya to experience Mayan culture and civilization have yet another reason to make the trip to Chichen Itza this June.
On June 19, a recently discovered solar phenomenon will be visible at Chichen Itza.
Archaeologists discovered the phenomenon this May while studying the Ossuary, an eleven-century-old astronomical observatory.
They found at noon, when the sun is at its highest point, a natural cave just below the Ossuary is lit up by another structure. The illumination creates the illusion of a 10-meter tunnel running up and down.
Archaeologists find that the area where the tunnel reaches the cave is decorated with snake inscriptions, leading them to believe that the cave was interpreted to be an entrance to the underworld.
Due to the alignment of the sun, specialists predict that this phenomenon will occur only twice a year, on May 23 and June 19.
Tourists on June 19 will have the opportunity to be one of the first outsiders to see the phenomenon for themselves.
This is only one of many remarkable achievements of Mayan architects, who managed to create many spectacles of light with their buildings and structures.
Let’s look at some of the other light spectacles that tourists can experience at Chichen Itza.
The Snake Of Light
The Snake of Light is perhaps the best-known light phenomenon at Chichén Itzá.
Each year at the spring and fall equinox, the sunlight reflects against the walls of the Pyramid of Kukulkan, which towers over Chichen Itza.
As the sunlight moves across the side of the pyramid, onlookers can see what appears to be a snake slithering down pyramid walls.
Historians have many theories about what the snake of light symbolized to the ancient Mayans. Some suspect that the snake comes to fertilize the Mayab, or the “land of the few and the privileged” in Mayan, each spring.
Regardless of the intent, tourists today will be amazed by the effects created by the architectural achievement of the ancient society.
The Lunar Snake
While tourists may be familiar with the snake of light, they may not yet know its partner phenomenon, the lunar snake.
Just as the Pyramid of Kukulkan can create a snake illusion with sunlight, it can with moonlight.
Weeks after the Snake of Light slithers down the pyramid’s walls, the second snake follows in its path.
The silver triangles resulting from the reflections create the same snake as the Snake of Light, but this time, they shine under the night sky.
Historians suspect that taken together, the astrological-archaeological events represent the dualism between the sun and the moon in the Mayan culture.
When videos of the Lunar Snake went viral on the internet, Director of Chichén Itzá Archaeological Zone Marco Antonio Santos Rodriguez said tourists would observe this phenomenon before his term as director finishes.
Santos Rodriguez said, “the carrying capacity of these places is reduced, but tourists would be able to access it, perhaps with a prior reservation.”
He also said that Chichen Itza is working on more ways to improve the tourist experience.
As a first step, Santos Rodriguez stated his intention to open activities during sunrise and sunset. He hopes that doing so will give people the opportunity to understand the lifestyle of the prehispanic Mayan people.
Santos Rodriguez hopes these new activities can help “us remember that people lived in this city day and night, even though most tourists visit during the day.
In addition, a new museum is going to open in Chichen Itza that showcases Mayan artifacts discovered in Chichen Itza and during the Mayan Train construction.
This museum is one of many that are soon to be opened across the Riviera Maya, showcasing the culture of the Mesoamerican civilization.
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