Posted by: Johan Normark | May 21, 2009

The new Seven Wonders of the World – Chichen Itza

There is much to say about the last of the Seven New Wonders that I have visited, particularly its extended causeway system. I have only been there once (the summer of 1997), although I have frequently been to the nearby town of Valladolid where we usually get our supplies and get contact with the world through internet (although we nowadays have a very slow internet connection at the village of Saban) .

I will just briefly discuss various buildings at the site.

El Castillo (the castle in Spanish) is also known as the temple of Kukulkan. This 30 m high structure has four steep staircases with 91 steps each and one step for all four, a total of 365 steps. There are nine platform levels. All these numbers are of course subject to a lot of mumbo jumbo among new-age people but it, of course, relate to more down-to-earth cosmology. As is common in the Maya area there is an older temple buried within.

Castillo stairs

The Great Ballcourt, here seen from the top of the Castillo, has enormous proportions compared to other known ballcourts (166 x 68 m). It is twenty times larger than the second largest known ballcourt. The walls are 12 m high and the ballcourt rings are located much higher than at other sites which make it questionable that it functioned as a real ballcourt. There are 12 other ballcourts at Chichen Itza and since they number 13 in total, and this once again relates to Maya cosmology (the moon orbits the Earth 13 times in a year, not 12 as one might think).


Temple of the Warriors close to the Castillo has a forest of carved pillars.

Temple of Warriors

In the older part of Chichen Itza we find the Caracol (snail in Spanish). It is also called the Observatory and is believed to have been used in naked-eye observations of Venus.


I do not think Chichen Itza should be on the list of the New Seven Wonders of the World for three reasons. First, it is a whole site rather than an individual building. The ancient list only contained single buildings. Therefore, the buildings are from different time periods spanning a couple of centuries.

Second, let us say we still include whole sites on the list, this site is not the most impressive wonder of Maya sites. If you go for artistic decoration, Palenque or Copan would be better options. For architectural wonders, Palenque has buildings that were more difficult to construct since the corbelled vaults of the major buildings spanned greater volumes of space than at any other Maya building. The temple of the inscriptions at Palenque also has the famous subterranean passage to Janaab Pakal’s tomb, in itself quite an unusual construction in Mesoamerica. If we take simple architectural volume or the massiveness of buildings as a measure then Chichen Itza is a dwarf compared to Tikal, Calakmul and El Mirador.

Third, if we should single out one building it is hard to see which one at Chichen Itza should stand out compared to other Maya sites. As mentioned there are larger and more complex pyramids elsewhere and the ballcourt stands out in size but it is not an architectural wonder.

I will add one more post where I present buildings I think should have been on the list instead of Chichen Itza, Macchu Picchu, the Christ statue and the Great Wall of China. I just have to think about it for a while. One building is clearly missing and that is Angkor Wat or the Bayon temple at Angkor (I have to decide which one I should choose). The Potala palace in Lhasa is another favorite, but it spans centuries as well. I will be completely subjective and add buildings I have seen myself. The only criterion is that they are from pre-industrial times.



  1. Your right! Angkor ( the whole city ) not just Angkor Wat should definitely and a must in the Seven wonders of the world! If they can put a whole city like Macchu Picchu and Chichen Itza than it’s fair to put the whole city of Angkor in the seven wonders of the world which is in fact the Largest ancient city in the Pre-industrial world! The engineering skills of the Angkorians is unmatch in human history! I don’t even know how the fuck did that statue made it! No offense to Christians!

  2. In my personal view I argue that only single buildings should be included, not whole cities. However, the whole new list is based on what people voted for. More people have visited Chichen and Rio than Angkor. More Mexicans and Brazilians also participated in the voting than Cambodians, etc. Had there been a more “objective” and professional panel I am sure Angkor Wat would have been on the list.

  3. You got that right! I just can’t see how, why, who, what, when did the statue got into the seven wonders of the world! Plus isn’t Chichen itza was built by the Toltecs! The great wall of China is very impressive in scale but it wasn’t built by one kingdom! It was built by so many different kingdoms and to me if you look at it closely there’s really nothing to see! I order to make the list I think it needs to be built entirely by one kingdom and not by different kingdoms! You can’t compare a wall like China to Macchu Picchu because it’s not fair! The great wall took many dynaties over the years to build while macchu pichhu only took one kingdom to build! That’s my suggestion!

  4. Chichen is not built by Toltecs, that is an outdated interpretation of the Modified Florescent style at the site. The Toltecs themselves may never have existed as a real ethnic group.

  5. So Chichen itza was built by the Mayans!

  6. I have been to the only ancient wonder of the world remaining but visited many other wonderous places.Who can say that one is more deserving than another to achieve ‘the status’.That is up to the individual to decide and a consensus will only divide.This marvellous world has been made to be enjoyed

  7. There’s good indication that Chichen Itzá was the reconciliatory site between Mayans and Aztecs and definetly has to do with the 10th Baktun of the mayan calendar although it also shows that these people had nothing of the mindset of today’s civilizations which never have in fact created a monument to peace between two large contingent partisans. Remember, U.S. Civil War?

  8. The Aztecs were not around when most of the monuments at Chichen Itza were constructed… There are a couple of centuries in-between them.


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