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Chichén Itzá MEX - Las Monjas east side 03

Chichén Itzá MEX - Las Monjas east side 03

Las Monjas is one of the more notable structures at Chichen Itza.

It is a complex of Terminal Classic buildings constructed in the Puuc architectural style. The Spanish named this complex Las Monjas ("The Nuns" or "The Nunnery") but it was actually a governmental palace.

Just to the east is a small temple (known as the La Iglesia, "The Church") decorated with elaborate masks.

The Las Monjas group is distinguished by its concentration of hieroglyphic texts dating to the Late to Terminal Classic. These texts frequently mention a ruler by the name of Kakupakal.

El Caracol ("The Snail") is located to the north of Las Monjas. It is a round building on a large square platform.

It gets its name from the stone spiral staircase inside. The structure, with its unusual placement on the platform and its round shape (the others are rectangular, in keeping with Maya practice), is theorized to have been a proto-observatory with doors and windows aligned to astronomical events, specifically around the path of Venus as it traverses the heavens.

Akab Dzib is located to the east of the Caracol. The name means, in Yucatec Mayan, "Dark (in the "Mysterious" sense) Writing." An earlier name of the building, according to a translation of glyphs in the Casa Colorada, is Wa(k)wak Puh Ak Na, "the flat house with the excessive number of chambers,” and it was the home of the administrator of Chichén Itzá, kokom Yahawal Cho' K’ak’.

INAH completed a restoration of the building in 2007. It is relatively short, only 6 metres high, and is 50 metres in length and 15 metres wide. The long, western-facing facade has seven doorways. The eastern facade has only four doorways, broken by a large staircase that leads to the roof. This apparently was the front of the structure, and looks out over what is today a steep, but dry, cenote. The southern end of the building has one entrance. The door opens into a small chamber and on the opposite wall is another doorway, above which on the lintel are intricately carved glyphs—the “mysterious” or “obscure” writing that gives the building its name today.

Under the lintel in the door jamb is another carved panel of a seated figure surrounded by more glyphs. Inside one of the chambers, near the ceiling, is a painted hand print.

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Photo taken on 12 November 2012 (© Daniel Mennerich / Flickr)

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