Author: Aura Trejo

Exploring Chichen Itza in Yucatán State, Mexico

Built by the Maya people of the Terminal Classic period, Chichen Itza was a large pre-Columbian city and today the archaeological site is located in the Tinún Municipality, Yucatán State, Mexico.

Chichen Itza was one of the largest Maya cities and may have had the most diverse population in the Maya world.

The site exhibits a variety of architectural styles including styles observed in central Mexico and the presence of these styles was once thought to have been indicative of migration or conquest from central Mexico.

However, modern interpretations view these non-Maya styles as a result of cultural diffusion.

Meaning of the Name “Chichen Itza”

The translation of the name “Chichen Itza” means “At the mouth of the well of Itza” and is derived from the Maya word for “mouth” or “edge”, chi’, and ch’en meaning “well”.

Finally, Itzá is the name of an ethnic-lineage group that gained economic and political dominance of the northern peninsula.

Location of Chichen Itza

Located in the eastern section of Yucatán State in Mexico, the Yucatán Peninsula which surrounds Chichen Itza is arid and the interior rivers all run underground.

If considering why the Maya chose the arid site to build Chichen Itza, there are four clearly visible sink holes, known as cenotes, which likely provided a continuous supply of fresh water making it an attractive site for settlement.

Of the 4 sinkholes, the Cenote Sagrado, or Sacred Cenote, is the most famous – almost as famous as sports betting NZ – and in 2015 it was determined by scientists that there is a hidden cenote under Kukulkan which has never been viewed by archaeologists.

The Political Organisation of Chichen Itza

In the late 1980s it was suggested by several archaeologists that unlike previous Maya policies of the Early Classic that Chichen Itza may not have been governed by a single ruler or dynastic lineage.

Rather, it was suggested that Chichen Itza’s political organisation may have been structured by a multepal system which is defined as a rulership by a council composed of various members of elite ruling lineages.

While this theory was popular throughout the 1990s, the authenticity of research which supported the idea of a multepal system has since been called into question or discredited entirely.

The History of Chichen Itza

The layout of the core site of Chichen Itza was established during its first phase of occupation between 750 and 900 AD and its final design was developed after 900 AD.

The 10th century saw the establishment of the city of Chichen Itza as the regional capital controlling the area from central Yucatán to the north coast, with its power extending all the way down the east and west coasts of the Peninsula.

The earliest hieroglyphic date discovered at the site is equivalent to 832 AD and the last known date recorded was 998 in the Osario Temple.

The Decline of Chichen Itza

Recent archaeological data suggest that Chichen Itza declined as the regional centre by 1250, before the rise of Mayapan, but according to post-Conquest sources, the Cenote Segrado remained a place of pilgrimage.

Exploring the Colosseum of Rome, Italy

Also known as the Flavian Amphitheatre, the Colosseum is an oval amphitheatre situated just east of the Roman Forum in the centre of Rome, Italy.

Built from travertine, tuff, and brick-faced concrete, the Colosseum is the largest amphitheatre ever built and could hold an estimated 50,000-80,000 spectators.

Construction of the Colosseum began at the behest of Emperor Vespasian in AD 72 and was completed in AD 80 under the watchful eye of his successor and heir, Titus.

Housing an average audience of approximately 65,000 people, the Colosseum was used for gladiatorial contests and public spectacles.

The Origins of the Colosseum

The site of the Colosseum was chosen as it was a flat area situated on the floor of a low valley between the Caelian, Palatine, and Esquiline Hills, through which a canalised stream ran. The densely populated area was largely devastated by the Great Fire of Rome in AD 64, after which Nero seized the area to add to his personal domain.

He built the Domus Aurea and Colossus of Nero on the site, however only the Colossus of Nero was preserved during the construction of the Flavian Amphitheatre under Emperor Vespasian in AD 72. Completed under Titus in AD 80, the inaugural games were held in AD 81.

Medieval Alterations to the Colosseum

The Colosseum was used for gladiatorial contests and public spectacles well into the 6th century – which surely would’ve been popular amongst New Zealand sports betting enthusiasts – but underwent several radical changes of use by the late 6th century.

A small chapel was built into the structure of the Colosseum and the arena was converted into a cemetery, while the vaulted spaces were turned into housing and workshops. In approximately 1200, the Frangipani family took ownership of the Colosseum and used it as a castle by adding fortifications.

After the great earthquake of 1349 destroyed the outer south side of the Colosseum, much of the stone was reused to build infrastructure around the city.

The interior was also extensively stripped of stone and the bronze clamps were hacked out of the walls creating pockmarks which still scar the building today.

Modern Alterations to the Colosseum

During the 16th and 17th century, Church officials sought a productive function for the site and Pope Sixtus V intended to convert the building into a wool factory to provide employment for the prostitutes of Rome, however this plan never came to fruition.

Then in 1749, Pope Benedict XIV declared the Colosseum a sacred site and installed Stations of the Cross, forbidding it from use as a quarry.

Later popes initiated various restoration projects and the façade was reinforced with triangular brick wedges in 1807 and 1827, while repairs to the interior took place in 1831, 1846, and the 1930s.

The Colosseum Today

The effects of pollution and general deterioration elicited a major restoration project which took place between 1993 and 2000 and today the Colosseum is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the world visited by millions annually.

Exploring the Moai Statues of Easter Island

Carved by the Rapa Nui people between the years 1250 and 1500 on Eastern Island in eastern Polynesia, the moai are colossal statues depicting human figures. Nearly half of the moai remain at the main quarry, Rano Raraku, but hundreds more were transported from there and set on stone platforms on the island’s perimeter.

These statues are primarily the living faces of deified ancestors and while many of them still gazed inland across the lands when Europeans first visited the island in 1722, almost all of them had fallen over by the late 19th century.

History of the Moai Statues

The moai were carved by the Polynesia colonisers of the island, between the years of 1250 and 1500 AD. While intended to present deceased ancestors, once placed upon stone platforms, or ahu, they may have been regarded as the personification of powerful living and deceased chiefs.

Each moai, of which there are over 900, presented status and the larger the statue placed on the ahu the more power the chief who commissioned it had.

The tallest moai erected is known as Paro and was almost 10 metres tall and weighed 82 tonnes, while one incomplete statue would have been approximately 21 metres tall with a weight of approximately 270 tonnes if completed.

Description of the Moai Statues

Bearing proud but inscrutable expressions, the moai were carved in relatively flat planes and their minimalistic style is related to forms found throughout Polynesia.

While many refer to the statues as simply ‘heads’ – much like how some refer to online blackjack as simply ‘21’ – they are in fact depictions of the head and trunk, with the overly large heads said to depict the sanctity of the chiefly head.

With heavy brows and elongated noses, the nostrils curl into a distinctive fish-hook-shape, while the lips form a thin pout. Flanked by elongated ears which are oblong in form, the jawline stands out distinctly from the truncated neck.

The Symbolism of the Moai Statues                                                                                                

While it has been suggested by many archaeologists that the statues were symbols of power and authority, pertaining to both the religious and political, the Rapa Nui people who created them saw these statues as repositories of sacred spirits.

The moai were positioned in order to face the village, with their backs to the ocean, as if to watch over the people, with the exception of the seven Ahu Akivi which face out to sea in order to help travellers find the island.

The Mystery of Moving the Moai Statues

How the more than 900 moai were moved from the original site of their creation remains by and large a mystery.

While it was originally thought that they were moved by ropes, wooden sledges, rollers, and levelled tracks across the island, another theory suggests that the moai were placed atop large logs and rolled to the destination of their final placement.

However, if this theory is correct it would take 50-150 people to move each moai. While we may never know exactly how these monoliths were moved, they certainly are a sight to behold.

The Myth of Stonehenge

It is believed that long, long ago there was an ancient civilisation that created a large circle of stones in a field in Wiltshire, England.

Stonehenge is a mystery.  The construction started in 3100BC until 1600BC.  There are no clues as to who they were or why they constructed the stones in such a way.  Many theories have surface over the years. Continue reading

Top 4 Mysterious Discovered Archaeological Sites

Earth still has a vast amount of land to explore, with the possibility of manmade wonders that still need to be found around every corner. Additionally, the depths of the ocean, which was originally coastline or even inland, could also hold untold archaeological treasures.

These wonders still waiting to discovered will boggle the mind of mankind for generations to come, but here we discuss the top four discovered archaeological sights that still need to be explained to modern man. Continue reading

The Black Coffin of Alexandria

Modern archaeology dates back to the 1800s, when scholars first found the ancient and buried city of Pompeii. Since then, archaeology has grown substantially, and it can be felt in just about every facet of the modern world.

From the happenings of our ancestors to how ancient disasters affected the world, almost all we know about what came before our society is thanks to the practice of archaeology. Continue reading