Ruines de Chichen by Auber, 1859
Ruines de Chichen by Auber, engraved by Gilquin and Dupain, 1859.
Chichen Itza was a large city built by the Mayans on the Yucatan Peninsula. It had a culturally diverse population, which probably influenced the artistic variation seen in the architecture at the site. The core of the city is located near the Xtoloc cenote, a natural sink hole, which, provided the people with fresh water, along with the Cenote Sagrado. At the time of Spanish conquest in the 1530s there was a large Mayan population living in the area, but Chichen Itza had ceased to be a thriving urban center. There are many architectural groups located in and around the Chichen Itza site. Among them is the structure featured in this print. The Spanish nicknamed it La Iglesia. It is a temple built in the Puuc style and features masks of Chaac, the rain god. The temple lies east of the Las Monjas complex. Though the Spanish called the structure "The Nuns," it was not a religious complex. The buildings had once formed a governmental palace.
During the 1840s, John Lloyd Stephens wrote a book about his travels on the Yucatan Peninsula. The book, Incidents of Travel in the Yucatan (1843), sparked European interest in Mayan cities. Many others embarked on their own explorations of Chichen Itza. Emanuel von Friedrichsthal took the first photographs of the ruins. In 1894, Edward Thompson bought the Hacienda Chichen, which included the city ruins, and began to excavate the area. In 1923 The Carnegie Institution received permission from the Mexican government to research and restore a number of the building complexes located at Chichen Itza. The city is one of the most popular archeological tourist sites in Mexico today, with millions of people visiting it every year. The site is owned by the federal government and is maintained by the Instituto Nacional de Anthropologia e Historia.
- Kurt Shaw