History of Mayan ruins
The Kukulkan pyramid at Chichen Itza is a Mayan engineering feat. (Photo: Images )
The Mayan civilization, which flourished from 2000 B.C. to 900 A.D. and produced the only known written language of pre-Colombian America, built cities in southeastern Mexico, the Yucatan and Central America. Visitors explore these ancient cities, climb pyramids and see the protected wildlife inhabiting the ruins. Some of the ruins have been designated UNESCO World Heritage sites, and each is historically noteworthy from a standpoint of architecture, size, location and preservation.
The Yucatan's Chichen Itza (chichenitza.com), named one of the New Seven Wonders of the World in 2007, was built around 600 A.D. during the Mayan Classic Period. Tourists can climb the pyramid of Kukulkan, the feathered serpent god, whose images on the structure's steps appear to move with the light during the spring equinox. You can see the famous jade-inlaid jaguar and the statue of the rain god Chac-Mool in the inner temple, and walk through the complex of buildings to see the sites of the ancient marketplace and the steam bath. Chichen Itza is an hour-and-a-half drive from either Cancun or Merida.
Uxmal is distinguished by its sophisticated architectural elements, sculptures and stone carvings. Visit the House of the Magician, built in five phases, showing distinct design elements that prevailed from the 7th to 10th centuries, the Late Classic period when the city was built. Look for the sculptures of turtles, which the Mayans associated with rain, at the House of Turtles, and the stone serpents and astrological symbols in the Governor's Palace. Make the trip from Merida to Uxmal in an hour by car.
Calakmul, in the Mexican state of Campeche, was the seat of the Snake Kingdom that reigned during most of the Classic Period, from 250 A.D. to 900 A.D. This well-preserved city contains 17 stelae, the largest number of any known Mayan site, with historically important glyphs that reveal the political and spiritual aspects of Mayan life. Get a glimpse of the everyday life of the ancient Mayans through the site's murals, which depict home and market scenes. Calakmul is a six-hour trip from Cancun, so plan on spending the night in a nearby hotel, cabin or campground.
Sixty miles from Calakmul was the rival city of Tikal (tikalpark.com), just over the Guatemalan border in the El Peten rain forest. The largest of the Classical Period urban areas, Tikal is now a 200-square-mile wildlife preserve and archeological site. Located between the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico, Tikal was a major trading center, whose causeways are now named after the explorers who discovered the site. You can hike trails through the site and listen to guides tell stories of its ancient rulers. Tropical birds, monkeys, ocelots and jaguars live in the area. After flying into Mundo Maya International Airport, take the one-hour drive to Tikal.
Mayan Civilization: Explore the History and Mystery of the Ancient Mayan Ruins, Religion, Calendar, and More (Mayan Ruins, Mayan Religion, Ancient Civilization, Mayan Calendar)
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The Aztec people/tribe were certain ethnic groups of central Mexico, particularly those groups who spoke the Nahuatl language and who dominated large parts of Mesoamerica in t