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Chichen Itza Facts

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Chichen Itza Facts for Kids

  • Chichen Itza is an ancient site located in Yucatán State, Mexico, in Central America.
  • The site has been listed as one of the New Seven Wonders of the World and is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. You can find out more about UNESCO in our Facts About Cairo Citadel.
  • Chichen Itza was an extremely important pilgrimage site for 1000 years for the ancient Maya people. The Maya civilization began before 2000 BC and lasted until 1697 when the Spanish Empire conquered their last remaining city. The Maya people lived in southeastern Mexico, all of Guatemala and Belize, and the western portions of Honduras and El Salvador.
  • The Maya name “Chichen Itza” means “at the edge of the well of Itza.” One possible translation for Itza is “enchanter (or enchantment) of the water.”
  • Chichen Itza was very powerful from around 600 until the year 1050 AD. It was strong because the city was able to buy resources that were difficult to find. This was thanks to its port, Isla Cerritos, which allowed the city to trade via water. In the 10th century, it became a regional capital, controlling the area from central Yucatán to the north coast.
  • The ancient city of Chichen Itza was well planned in the design. The pyramids and temples were built in clusters, with paved walkways in between. Archaeologists have found over 80 of these walkways all over the site. The main building clusters are the Great North Platform, the Old Chichen, plus the Ossario and Central Groups.
  • There are hieroglyphs at Chichen Itza. Not Egyptian ones – Maya ones! However, they look similar to Egyptian hieroglyphs because Maya script uses pictures, or characters, to mean certain words or phrases, just like Egyptian hieroglyphs do.
  • At the center of the site is a castle in a pyramid shape. In Spanish, it’s called El Castilo, which means castle. But its real name is the Temple of Kukulkan and it actually sits on top of a much older temple.
  • On the 20th of March (the Spring Equinox) and the 22nd September (the Autumn Equinox), the sun’s rays create a strange shadow across the Temple of Kukulkan. It looks just like a snake slithering down the pyramid staircase. And in fact, the temple is named after the Maya feathered serpent god, Kukulkan.
  • Would you believe it, there are actually 13 ballcourts in Chichen Itza! The Maya people loved to play a ball game that involved using your hip to bounce a rubber ball around. A version of this ancient ballgame, Ulama, is still played by some people in Central America today.

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Question: What was the name of Chichen Itza’s port?
Answer: Isla Cerritos.

Question: Which ancient civilization built Chichen Itza?
Answer: Maya.

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Facts for Kids video

Question: How many paved walkways did archaeologists find at the site?
Answer: Over 80.

Question: What is the name of the feathered snake god?
Answer: Kukulkan.

Question: How many ballcourts are at Chichen Itza?
Answer: 13.