Thursday, August 25, 2011

Dungeonspiration: Chichén Itzá

The Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan was one of my favorite modules to look at and read back in the early '80s, so when I had the chance to go to a real life Central American temple complex, I jumped at the chance.

The tour guide looked like a Mexican Saddam Hussein.  I would have never mentioned it, but he seemed proud of the fact and told us at least ten times.  El Saddam also informed us that the best was to remember how to pronounce Chichén Itzá was to say 'Chicken Pizza' as many times as possible.

Chichén Itzá is a wonderful site, dominated by large gray buildings rising up out of the hot, arid jungle.  Any thoughts of fantasy worlds or imaginary dungeons melt away.  This shit is real, and there is a heck of a lot more to it than just a pyramid.

What most people don't realize is that a good chunk of the site was basically rubble when European explorers found it.  A lot of effort went into figuring out how all the stones fit together.  And who knows, maybe they got it completely wrong. Perhaps Chichén Itzá should really look like a gigantic stone EPCOT center.

Okay, maybe not. :)

Below is the Well of Souls. It's a cenote, which is a fresh water filled limestone sinkhole. Supposedly, the Mayans took sacrificial victims, weighted them down with stones, gave them a hallucinogenic drug, and tossed them in the below.

Unlike the other cenote I visited in the Yucatán, this one was dirty and muddy looking, and I could just imagine centuries of corpses piled up on the bottom, intermingled in the ooze. Yuck.

The image above is of part of the Tzompantli, or Wall of Skulls. Supposedly, thousands upon thousands of human sacrifices were performed here. Death seems to be ever present at Chichén Itzá.

Near the end of the tour, El Saddam let us roam the site on our own.  I was drawn to the out of the way nooks and crannies were the crowds were absent.   After some time of wandering, I found myself staring at a blocked entrance.  Where was the entrance to?  Well - it should be obvious.  A hidden shrine - with deadly traps and hideous monsters.  Perhaps there was a  gibbering mouther just beyond the stones - but only Erol Otus would know for sure.

So get off your duff and go to the Mexico.  Or perhaps just go to the Wikipedia page.  Whatever the case, ancient Mayan ruins are a great way to get inspired.  Dream on.

- Ark


  1. Great post! I have been to Teotihuacan, and it was breathtaking (literally and figuratively).

    You could easily imagine what it would be like to explore the empty ruins on your own, just the creak of your shoes and the scuff of your feet on the rubble to break the silence...

  2. @Lasgunpacker - Thanks. :)

    Teotihuacan would be very cool to visit. But man, I'd need a Segway - or Moped - or Vespa - or something. That's some serious milage in that site.

    Teotihuacan seems, from videos at least, to be way out in the open and exposed. Chichén Itzá has the jungle around it and it seems, at some points, claustrophobic, despite the wide open public places. But then again, wide open can be really creepy too - the hills have eyes. :)

    - Ark

  3. Yes, it is certainly open, since it is effectively a plateau amongst some mountains. Wikipedia says that it is 83 square KM, but most of that is outside the main plaza.

    This picture gives a good idea of how open it is. Looking at that climb makes me tired all over again.

  4. Great pics! I took a few a while back too:

    Did you go in the little museum? And see the awesome model? WANT!!!

  5. Nice pics. They made me think of Scott Sz's Tamoachan posts.

  6. @Lasgunpacker - That is a cool picture -= and yeah - that is waaay open.

    @mikemonaco - Oh yeah, that model was awesome! Regretfully, they had closed El Castillo to climbing a couple of years later by the time I got there. Some poor old lady had fallen down the steps and died, if I remember the story correctly.

    @Theodric - Thanks. I'll have to check those out.

    - Ark