The Ancient Ruins
Chacchoben Travel Blog› entry 1 of 2 › view all entries
Deep in the jungles of Quintana Roo, lie ruins of a once grand city devoted to worship, and adoration. Excavations have dated the site back to 1000BC, though the temple complex dates to the common era. Like many Mayan temples in Mexico, they were built upon and modified over centuries, then suddenly abandoned. We were told that these particular ruins were offered up to the gods of the jungle around 950CE, and more than half of them still lie buried beneath the tropical foliage and trees that have been dominating here for more than a thousand years!
What many believed to be hills and plateaus, were the structures erected by man so many many years ago, and taken back from whence they came.
To the best of researcher's knowledge, this area has never seen volcanic activity, no sliding of rocks, no formations of mountains or hills, nor the cutting of water through the ground to form canyons and valleys.
So, here is to unveiling the mystery of Chacchoben. Meaning "the place of red corn," it is crucial to note the part that maiz played in the life of the Maya. An important staple in their diet, a "revered crop," it was included in all aspects of their culture. The high yield it produced, the masses it fed, more so than any other grain in the world, was also believed to be a gift from the gods.
Upon walking into the park, I am met by the first temple. Let it be known that what you see here is only a precursor of the wonder and awe to come. Our guide makes certain to inform the group that these were not palaces or tombs, but places of worship and the observation of the stars. Mayans had a deep connection to the universe. They observed the sun, moon, and stars, and developed a complex calender with glyphs and ciphers, were even the biorhythms of our universe were recorded.
The remaining structures date back to 700AD, and excavations are not nearly finished. This particular site lay undiscovered under the flora of time, until a farmer discovered this hidden treasure in the 1940s. The site would not become public for another 60 years!
Surrounded by Cohune palms, Banyan trees, figs, and a multitude of varying palms and fronds, it is a mystical place. Massive tree roots sprout from what once were homes or storerooms in this ceremonial center. Behind the first temple lies an open area, much like a football field, surrounded on all sides by terraces and wall like structures...all hidden beneath trees and palms. The large number of trees and palms forms a protective canopy that filters the sunlight, and creates a feeling of complete enchantment.
Beyond the ceremonial center lie more temples. Imagine my surprise when walking out of the dense foliage, and coming upon a "hill". Upon further inspection, we could see bricks and rocks scattered about on this "hill," and on top of it, another temple! We had approached the side of a massive temple, only partly excavated. We had to walk around to the left, to approach the front - where we mounted countless steep steps to get to the top. Once there, we were greeted by a flat grassy area, and to the left and front of us two gorgeous temples. Though neither one of them were accessible, we could see where once the worship and sacrifices were performed. There was also a canopied section of the wall of a temple, which bore remnants of the red paint that used to cover the entirety of these temples.
Why the temples were painted in red I could not find out, seems that many scholars find it to be true, but haven't figured out why. One thing I can attest to is that because the Mayans held beliefs that they were created from the blood of the gods, it was perfectly natural for them to assume that blood sacrifices would appease the gods if the crops were failing, drought, etc...The blood of the sacrificial victim was spilled down the steps of the temples, beheadings being the common mode of delivery. Perhaps the color of the temples has a connection with the blood sacrifices, the Mayan peoples way of saying, "thanks for being our progenitors, this is in honor of you, a symbol of the blood you spilled to create us..."
These were only my second ruins, and I have plans to see many more, to learn more about this amazing culture, and reconnect with the marvelous past.