Temple Of The Warriors In Chichen Itza

Mexico Essay, Research Paper

The Temple of the Warriors, also known as Templo de los Guerreros, was supposedly built by the Itza civilization between the tenth and the twelfth century in the ancient city of Chichen Itza, Mexico. (See figure 1) Chichen Itza is located in the Mexican lowlands. The Itza supposedly occupied Chichen Itza at two different times, the first being from 495 A.D. to 692 A.D. and the second being from 948 A.D. to 1204 A.D. The temple was built in the second occupation of Chichen Itza (Vargas, 1). Tula, the ancient capital of the Toltec’s gave most of the influence in architecture to the Itza’s. The Temple of the Warriors is located on the east side of the ancient city near the Court of a Thousand Columns. (See figure 2) The temple was primarily used for sacrificial purposes and ceremonies were conducted to please the gods that they worshipped. Located directly inside of the temple is another temple known as the Buried Temple. The Temple of the Warriors was built directly over the top of the pre-existing one.

In 1925, the Carnegie Institute discovered the Temple of the Warriors in the ancient ruin city of Chichen Itza. Ann Axtell Morris was one of the archeologists that took on the task of unearthing the Temple of the Warriors. In her book Digging in the Yucatan, she describes the pain staking process of bringing the building back to the original state. Digging in the Yucatan is basically a primary source based off of archeological studies done during the time Morris was in Chichen Itza. In her book, Morris describes the artifacts pulled from the ruined structure, the rebuilding of the structure and the contributions of the excavation that she did on the Temple of the Warriors. This book was published in 1931, which means that the book was published before any more analysis could be done on the temple’s inscriptions or hieroglyphics. Morris’ book allowed a first hand insight into the excavation of the temple through the eyes of an archeologist that was on site during the unfolding of the hidden treasures.

In the book, Your Yucatan Guide, by Henry F. Godfrey. The book is basically a guide around the Yucatan but delves into the subject of the Temple of the Warriors. Throughout the selected pages, he describes the different artifacts and various aspects of the temple. This book should be considered a primary source because it is relying on the artifacts that are still present at the temple. It should also be considered a secondary source because the explanations he gives are his own and no reference is made to authority figures about what he is proclaiming.

Maya: The Riddle and Rediscovery of a Lost Civilization, a book by Charles Gallenkamp. Gallenkamp studied anthropology at the University of New Mexico and has been a leader of several archeological expeditions throughout the Southwest, Mexico, and Central America. He is the director of the Mayan Research Fund, a research associate of the Instituto Interamericano and an adviser to the Department of Anthropology of the Houston Museum of Natural History. Maya is considered a primary source since the author, Gallenkamp, is an expert on the Mayan culture and has been on many archeological digs throughout his lifetime. Since this book was published in 1959, some of his findings and interpretations might be a little out dated since more studies have been done on the ruins of the Temple of the Warriors.

John S. Henderson a Professor of Anthropology at Cornell University published a book, The World of the Ancient Maya, which gives a great overview of the Temple of the Warriors. His book is both a primary and secondary source based on archeology and literal research. It is a primary resource because Henderson is pulling information from the actual temple. It is also a secondary resource because Henderson incorporates his own analysis into points of the book.

A website written by Dr. Eduardo Vargas entitled, Chichen Itza, is a primary source because it is based off of the temple and the ruined city which is all archeological research. Another website that I found entitled Temple of the Warriors, Chichen Itza, is also a primary source. In this the author, who is not disclosed, describes the building and some of the different aspects that gives the temple a unique character.

In Morris’s book, Digging in the Yucatan she describes the process taken by the archeologists of the Carnegie Institute. From the accidental find to the final handing over of the Temple of the Warriors to the Mexican Government, her book covers much detail. Earl H. Morris, the husband to Ann Axtell Morris, discovered the Temple of the Warriors while watching over the excavation of the Court of a Thousand Columns. He ventured over to a huge mound for that seemed to be attached to the Court. After pondering about the mound a few days, he gave the orders to start clearing it. (See figure 3)

Within a few days, two columns were found and next to them were two stone rattle snake tails. They immediately realized that it was part of the Plumed Serpent because it was the symbol for the chief god of Chichen Itza. “His image is painted and carved upon temple walls, hundreds of times repeating gaping fanged jaws and feather-covered slimy curves” (Morris, 106). They dug to the bottom of the columns and found the two serpent heads in perfect condition. After many days of putting the tails back together and reconnecting them to the large columns, they had found the entrance to the top of the temple. (See figure 4)

When the remainder of the temple was cleared of the rubble, they found a high petition wall with a narrow door, which led into an interior room. Behind the wall Morris found an inner sanctuary, which at one time must have contained the Altar of Sacrifice. Not surprisingly, there was an altar smashed to bits and pieces but through much effort they were able to put the altar back to together. Nineteen little men supported the Atlantean altar. (See figure 5)

On each side of the pyramid was a series of four terraces of alternating sloping and perpendicular zones. The zones were formally narrow bands, which encircled the pyramid. The bands were carved with hundreds of curious figures standing about two and a half feet tall. They were reclining human figures, jaguars, eagles, and some curious half bear and half coyote creatures, which were each holding a human heart in its claws. At the end of the second year, in 1926 the archeologists found a column that they expected to find. (Morris) They went up the side of the pyramid and after digging seven feet down, they found a red polished floor. They started digging and found the buried temple. The sanctuary of the buried temple with exception of painted walls and colored sculptured columns, was quite bare. (Morris) (See figure 6)

Towards the end of the excavation after four long exciting years, Earl Morris decided to try and find any burials located in side the temple. The only burial that was found was outside the temple next to the grand staircase, which was a cremation pit. He was tapping around the floors of the buried temple when he heard a slight echo come from the floor. He broke the floor and lifted the huge heavy stone. At the center of the cavity lay a large spherical ball of dark jade polished as glass. This was one of the Zaz-Tuns or “light stones” which the old priests had used for prophecy. (Morris) Next to it was a piece of green apple jade carved to represent a human face and accompanying it were two more jade beads and strings of shells. (Morris) Underneath was a jar, which contained a turquoise mosaic. The mosaic was nine inches in diameter and contained over three thousand pieces of turquoise. (See figure 7) From research done on the hieroglyphics it was determined the Buried Temple that was only in use for 15 years before they decided to build the Temple of the Warriors over the top of it.

In Maya: The Riddle and Rediscovery of a Lost Civilization, Gallenkamp says that the Carnegie Institute with Earl H. Morris in charge first laid the temple bare in 1925. At the base of the mound were fragments of dozens of square columns that once formed the impressive colonnade along the front of the terraced building, which contained weathered images of Itza Warriors. (See figure 7) While excavating the ruins, they found a Chac Mool, a number of Atlantean figures, and sections of huge columns sculptured in the form of plumed serpents which originally had been set up on either side of the temple’s doorways.

Gallenkamp talks about a hidden temple inlayed within the Temple of the Warriors in which they called the Buried Temple. It contained murals and four painted warrior columns. (See figure 8) Earl Morris started to explore several altars uncovered in various portions of the building in the hope of finding some sort of treasure, which turned out to be a bust. Then he probed the floor of the Buried Temple were he found a jar buried in the floor. Within the jar, laid a ball of jade and besides the ball partly covered by a white film, was an irregular shaped plaque of jade that was carved to resemble a human face. Under all of that laid a turquoise mosaic nine inches in diameter made out of over three thousand pieces of polished turquoise. (Gallenkamp) (See figure 9)

In Henry F. Godfrey’s book, Your Yucatan Guide, he describes the basic lay out of the Temple of the Warriors. “As you ascend the steps you come out on a broad platform. Immediately facing you is the figure of a Chac Mool. Framing the Chac Mool are two gigantic serpent columns” (Godfrey, p 72-73). (See Figure 8) The exterior of the temple is decorated with triple masks of Chac, the Rain God. Behind the Chac Mool is a broad altar, held aloft by Atlantean columns, named after the Greek god that held the world upon his shoulders. (Godfrey) (See Figure 5)

From the web page, Temple of the Warriors, Chichen Itza, the author tells us that the Temple of the Warriors is ten meters tall and over forty meters wide and is a good example of the Toltec influence on Mayan architecture. The temple is also referred to as the Templo de los Guerreros. The cornice of the upper temple was built over the top of a pre-existing temple that is completely engulfed with motifs of heart-eating jaguars and eagles. (Temple of the Warriors, Chichen Itza) These images refer to the military elite to whom the platform is named after, the Temple of the Warriors. There are also images of Kukulc?n as the Sun of the Earth. The author talks of the impressive entrance guarded by the Chac-Mool. It is believed that offerings were placed on the stomach of the reclining figure that would act as messenger to the gods. (Temple of the Warriors, Chichen Itza)

John S. Henderson, The World of the Ancient Mayas, describes the Temple of the Warriors complex as striking like Tula’s Pyramid B, a Quetzalcoatl temple with adjacent colonnaded halls. He describes a Chac Mool as being a monolithic figure of reclining men with raised knees and heads, holding a bowl like vessels on their abdomens. (See figure 9) Standard-Bearers guard the top of the steps of the temple. Running along side of the temple are benches that over look the large ball court. (Henderson) Henderson exclaims that no one is buried in the Temple of the Warriors; the only body that was found was of a baby.

Dr. Vargas describes the Temple of the Warriors as a four terraced pyramid decorated immensely with personages, eagles, and tigers. The upper part has walls of what was a ritual building, rectangular in shape twenty-one meters on each side. Pillars which once held the roof where decorated with the monster of the Earth, a priest, and the Bacab. The pillars were perfectly located in the four cardinal directions each with it’s own color.

The Mayan people of Chichen Itza built the Temple of the Warriors in between the tenth and twelve century during the Early-Post Classic Era (Vargas, 1). It was built to honor the warriors of the tribe, the Plumed Serpent, and Chac the rain god. Looking at the sculptures inside and outside the temple can prove this. Many images of the Plumed Serpent, Chac and warriors are depicted on many of the columns and wall paintings around the temple. The temple had one purpose, to sacrifice individuals to please the gods. The Chac Mool that guards the entrance of the temple was used to hold the offerings of the gods. The Chac Mool was the messenger between the people and the gods. The sacrificed individuals heart was removed and placed in a bowl on the Chac Mool.

Surrounding the temple was a series of four terraces of alternating sloping and perpendicular zones. The zones were formally narrow bands which encircled the pyramid which was carved with hundreds of curious figures standing about two and a half feet tall. They consisted of a curious half bear and half coyote each that had a human heart in its claw (Morris).

On the top of the temple beyond the Chac Mool and the Feathered Serpents dedicated to the Plumed Serpent lays a high-petitioned wall. Beyond the wall is where all the sacrifices were done. Through a narrow doorway in the wall, the Altar of Sacrifice stands held up by nineteen small-carved men. (Morris) As the room is unfolding in front of you, your eyes are directed towards the red dyed floor (Morris). The room only twenty-one meters long has columns with the images of the monster of the Earth, a priest and the Bacab. These four columns stand erect in the four cardinal directions used to hold up the roof of the Inner Sanctuary (Vargas, 2).

The placement of the columns can be used to bring in Mireca Eliade’s view on how religious people split the world into two. It is split into the profane realm and into the sacred realm. The sacred is considered to be the ideal and is divided into the extraordinary, the eternal unchanging, and the spiritual realm. The sacred realm is basically the blue print or model of the world around us. On the other side of the world is the profane which is a copy of the sacred. It is broken up into different parts such as the ordinary, the historical – change, and the material aspects of the profane world. The only way for the sacred to leak into the profane is through a hierophony that is a paradox temporary joining of the sacred and the profane. This is a very important part of Eliade’s idea. It is based on the four cardinal directions that mean the Mesoamerican temple is on the zenith of all four directions. The temple of the city is actually the center of the world.

The temple is set up with the four cardinal directions around the altar. This allows Eliade’s formula to go into affect. When an individual is sacrificed, it allows the two worlds to combine the upper and the lower for a brief second to allow the victim to become sacred.

Inside the Temple of the Warriors lays another temple, the Buried temple. This temple was only used for fifteen years before the ruler at the time decided to build the Temple of the Warriors around the pre-existing one (Morris). Inside this much smaller temple, the Carnegie Institute found a nine inch turquoise mosaic that they believe is an offering to one of the gods. However, this raises a question, why is there no other offerings buried in the floor like the mosaic. One explanation given by Morris is that the temple was looted before the roof collapsed.

The Temple of the Warriors was mainly used for sacrificial purposes. Individuals were placed upon the Altar of Sacrifice and given to the gods through the act of sacrifice. Eliade’s formula fit in with the temple because inside the Inner Sanctuary, the four columns that held up the roof were in direct alignment of the four cardinal directions. After many more years of research, the Temple of Warriors might spill all its secrets out to us. Causing archeologists to find new and exciting things about the temple.


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