I took a too-brief trip down to the Yucatan Peninsula to visit the Mayan ruins at Chichen-Itza as part of the Maya Skies initiative, which will result in a 180-degree film to be shown at full-dome theaters and planateriums when it's finished. I flew into Cancun and rented a car for what seemed a long drive to Chichen-Itza, but other team members drove all the way from San Francisco, so I can't complain!
I stayed at the Mayaland Hotel, which is right on the ancient temple grounds.
Looking out the front entrance, the observatory or El Caracol (the snail) is deliberately framed. This is the building our group was most focused on, so it seemed appropriate.
The hotel grounds and surrounds were amazing.
This was my favorite little courtyard, and everything was kept immaculate for las touristas.
The humidity is evident as condensation on the windows looking out on my balcony.
Many "wild" peacocks and peahens wandered the grounds, looking for handouts.
The Iguanas would nod their heads with vigor when you got too close.
Philippe, Kevin & Mark
My compatriots, deciding what to do that day.
Ingmar & Ken
The group lab at the neighboring hotel (the Hacienda), owned by the same parent company that owns the land.
A zoomed view of the observatory from my hotel.
A close-up of the collapsed wall.
This part was open to the public.
We were the only visitors allowed in the actual structure.
We needed a ladder to get to the stairs, which were quite cramped.
Climbing the spiral staircase required bending on hands and knees.
Kevin and the others were quite comfortable scrambling on top of everything.
Liz (left) is responsible for the scanning team, and Cynthia (right) is the production manager.
Antonio developed an electronic system for capturing HDR panoramas automatically.
This is a view of the "nunnery" from the top of the observatory.
Thhe observatory didn't have any telescopes of course, but offered these carefully aligned windows for looking at celestial bodies at certain times of the year. Apparently, the planet Venus figured prominently in Mayan astronomy.
We visited the nunnery, next.
There were some interesting tunnels off to the side, which I explored on my third day there.
The steps leading up were a little too steep and delapidated for me, so I didn't climb them.
Besides, there were many iguanas sunning themselves, and I didn't want to disturb them.
The carvings on the exterior walls were very impressive.
The combination of figurative and symbolic art was striking.
Love the nose.
We saw many tours go through while we were there, though most didn't arrive until after 10 in the morning.
This smaller pyramid was called Osario.
The snakes running down each side showed a common theme in Mayan architecture.
The much larger pyramid on the north grounds is called El Castello.
Another repeated symbol was a man being swallowed by a jaguar.
This is Chac Mul, the Mayan rain god, who was fond of holding the beating hearts of used-to-be-lievers.
I later took a whole sunset sequence from this vantage point.
Cool columns. I'm not sure what they used to support, but they were ornately decorated.
An ancient urn of some kind. Artifacts like this seemed to be scattered about everywhere.
That's a lot of rock, very nicely assembled.
I loved these little guys. I assume this was a massage table of some kind.
Me, looking hot and sweaty. It's just a look.
A small temple covered in jaguars.
A jaguar throne or altar -- I'm not sure which.
This is the temple of champions, if I remember right.
I loved this snake, which lined the wall of the ball court.
The hoop was very small and very high up. I don't think I could have gotten anything through it.
This is where I would have gotten the "thumbs down," presumably. Fortunately for me, that means I am unworthy of sacrifice.
Sunset on El Castello.
The light show given in the evenings is accompanied by a narrative that is fatuous in 5 languages.
The temple of champions at night, right before I was told I had to sit with the others.
The final morning, I did a little exploration on my own, revisiting some of the sites and checking out others I had missed. This water trough was along an ancient road that led to the south temples.
This hut is supposed to show the kind of dwelling that modern Maya occupy.
A very red ant hill.
I thought this was a great-looking bird, though I haven't a clue as to the breed.
Bougainvillaeas, I believe.
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