On the Road is a weekday feature spotlighting reader photo submissions.
From the exotic to the familiar, whether you’re traveling or in your own backyard, we would love to see the world through your eyes.
Follow-up on an OtR post by ? a while back. Since the public is no longer allowed to climb the pyramids I’m sending along a few photos taken in the mid-1990s; basic scans of 4×6 prints and multiple compressed email transfers, so sorry abt the quality, but gives a sense of the place. Hope they all ‘travel’ well. I had real issues getting a few to transfer digitally with anywhere near the quality of the prints; like trying to over-enlarge small files.
IIRC Olympus OM-1n, 50mm 1.8, probably Kodak 400.
Pyramid. There was a large chain set down the middle of the stairs. Didn’t need it on the way up, but very helpful going down: the stairs are very steep. Many went down backwards, facing the stairs holding the chain.
Pyramids are limestone. When the sun broke through that day this was the look.
IIRC the palace complex, from the top of a pyramid. I was motioning for the people to get out of my shot, but they totally ignored me! Probably Russians.
The Ball Court from up top. Yucatan here very flat.
Mayan gods weren’t as bloodthirsty as some others in Meso-America, but they weren’t warm and cuddly. Guide said this was the fate of the captain of the losing ball team. Note the representation of his last breath curling out of his mouth.
Nice! I’ve been to Chichen Itza twice- the first time on a family vacation in 1969. The place had not been developed into a tourist attraction yet- it took a Jeep ride down a rough road to get there, at one point stopping so the guide could machete-hack a fallen tree to clear the way. My mom joked that “this is better than ANY Disney “Jungle Adventure” ride.
Then again with MY kids, in 2001. We were still allowed to climb the pyramid (STEEP!) . When did they stop allowing that, and why?
Glad all the shots worked out. For some reason, on some digital platforms, the head shot and sunlit pyramid display the size of postage stamps, and stretching borders or trying to rejigger x by y formats just result in pixellated messes.
Very cool. It was so cool going the the Yucatan in the 70’s. I don’t remember a chain down the stairs at Chitchen Itza, but I do remember a chain on the even steeper stairs on the Temple of the Magician at Uxmal
I was always a huge fan of the OM-1. And i remember that fixed lens with the f1.8. Brings back memories.
Nice range of shots — from a close-up of that losing ballplayer to the wide views from above. I can’t imagine climbing down those stairs, no wonder people went backwards.
We were there in 2010 and no climbing was allowed. I believe a number of people were injured and/or killed falling down the stairs so they stopped it.
J R in WV
People fall into the Grand Canyon, and get mashed by Bison at Yellowstone, where you can also fall into boiling water — but no one suggests closing those parks…?
I remember those stairs. I went down them on my butt most of the way.
These are wonderful pictures, thanks. I never had any interest in Central American archaeology until I got older for some reason. Maybe because so much more has been learned about them in the last couple of decades what with all the new technological tools being developed. LIDAR may be first and foremost among these emerging tools for finding ruins and roads beneath the jungle canopy.
Thanks again for showing us these.
Thanks for posting these!
My grandmother went to Mexico around 1968 with a tour that went to Chichen-Itza. It’s the only time I remember her going anywhere other than to visit family. I remember being fascinated by the pictures. She brought me back a 10-foot leather bullwhip. I still have it.
@J R in WV: I worked at the Grand Canyon for over 2 years. At least 2-3 fall off the edge every year. The local slang calls it “going over the rim.” People also climb down on the walls and have to be rescued.
J R in WV
Yes, I was remiss in not admiring these pictures, and thinking of how much work it was scanning old pictures and editing the images to make them useful and attractive.
Great job working with small older images, great photos from an era when it wasn’t so easy as it is now with digital tech.
I would love to visit these ruins, but can no longer stand heat and humidity, so probably will never visit the Yucatan in person.
Thanks for sharing!
We also visited Chichen Itza back in the mid-90’s and also climbed the pyramid, I think I got one shot from the top.
Thanks for sharing! I was at Chichen Itza in the early 90’s. Back then, they let you inside to see the jaguar throne. You had to go up a dark, narrow, damp stairway and about a third of the way up I got very claustrophobic. I made my way up, but I was quietly whimpering to myself all the way. Once at the top, I noticed I was behind an elderly couple who seemed happy to be there and I thought, “well, if they can do this, so can I.” Nevertheless, I was quite relieved to get out of there.
The Jaguar Throne was really cool
@Wag: It was! Despite the anxious trip up the stairs, I’m glad I got the chance to see it.
When I was dating my wife in the late 90s we went there for the Vernal Equinox so we could check out the snakes that appear on the stairs. It was about 700 degrees at 11AM so we booked it to the coast instead. We found a great motel on the beach in Playa Del Carmen and spent a couple of nights there. This was right before the major highway was built. I hear it lost all of it’s charm since then.
very nice! definitely a different view from the top than from the bottom, which is where we had to take photos since we weren’t allowed up. this was just in the last few years. we were still allowed to climb the pyramid in coba, that was fraught, i was so scared i couldn’t take proper photos.
Maybe it is a good time to note that while Chichen Itza is popularly regarded as the greatest of the classic Mayan sites, it is a city which was prominent only after the greatest flourishing of the classic era of the Mayan civilization in the 8th century. Chichen Itza is a mix of Mayan influences, but was possibly even ruled by non-Mayan lords and has many non-Mayan features. This is indicated by such things as lack of traditionally correct Mayan hieroglyphs, a major emphasis on the ceremonial ball court far beyond earlier sites, non-traditional ruler names, new forms of god depictions, circular or oval temples and so on. Much of this influence is seemingly from Central Mexico. Most scholars think now that Chichen Itza filled in the vacuum of the collapse of the earlier two high-king city-leagues that dominated the classic Mayan era – i.e. that of the league of cities headed by Tikal and that headed by Calakmul, which both ended in the early 9th century.
@J R in WV:
If you go in our (North American) winter, you will be in the Yucatan’s dry season. The climate is (usually) very tolerable then. It’s the humidity which is problematic there, the actual temperatures being survivable (it’s between 70-90 all year) but the extreme humidity in the wet season (our spring and summer) being what’s difficult to handle. Also recommended is trying to see the sites in the morning, as humidity increases as the day gets longer.
If anyone’s interested in climbing pyramids I visited Mexico City a few years ago and they were still allowing people to climb the pyramids of Teotihuacan.
@burritoboy: thanks for that info. our local guide was genuinely upset that movies like “apocalypto” made his ancestors seem like savages. meanwhile, they had very advanced astronomical knowledge, as well as the advanced acoustic knowledge to make chichen itza generate a quetzal sound when you clap at its base. he also pointed out the advanced acoustics of the ball court, in which it was possible for viewers at each end to speak to each other 500′ away. it’s sad to think about how this civilization basically disappeared.
The writing system has really only been deciphered in the past few years, so we are literally right now learning the political histories of the Mayan cities, down to the specific days many things happened. Only in 2016, for example, did we find out critical things about the evolution and fall of the mighty Snake dynasty, high kings of Calakmul. (Again, to give people a perspective, the classic Mayan society was formed into numerous city-states that each only ruled small areas around their centers. Each city-state had its own hereditary kingly line. But these many city-states were formed into two vast “leagues” under two main “high kingly” city-states – Tikal and Calakmul. Thus, the history of the Snake Dynasty is also simultaneously the history of one of the two main alliances of Mayan society.)
@burritoboy: very interesting, i will be very excited to see what the researchers learn now that they have a better understanding of the writing system!