Dzibilchaltun, or dZeebl-chal-toon or SEE-BILL-CHAL-TOON or dZeebl-toon as the locals call it, may not be as well known or popular to visitors as Chichen-Itza or Uxmal, but when it comes to Mayan ruins, it is actually one of the largest and oldest sites discovered. When I booked our cruise to Progreso which is located in tropic Yucatan area of Mexico, I knew that seeing the ruins would be top on our list. Originally I was interested in the better known Chichen-Itza, but since it is more popular, I also thought perhaps it would be more crowded. Besides, Dzibilchaltun is closer to the port, about a 15 minute bus ride from Progresso, where Chichen-Itza was quite a bit further.
Though we could have arranged our own excursions, I really didn’t feel comfortable doing so. Not only was this our first cruise, I had been to Mexico before (Tijuana) and had a less than ideal experience so I chose to play it safe and book directly from the ship. It was certainly well worth the money. We found our guides easily on the pier, loaded onto our busses and off we went. Our guides were not only knowledgeable about the ruins, but very personable and entertaining.
The only negative aspect of booking an excursion and not exploring on your own is that perhaps you won’t fully experience the culture. Not on a personal level that is. Since this was the first trip to Mexico for everyone in my family (except for me), I couldn’t say that anyone was disappointed.
Arriving at Dzibilchaltun, we were cautioned to stay on the path and not to step into the bushes. Why? Because of poisonous snakes, sinkholes and these……yes…these really are tarantulas! Fortunately, they were already dead when I took the picture.
I was disappointed to learn that the onsite museum was closed for renovations, but once we began exploring the grounds, I didn’t feel that I was missing anything. Not only is the nearly 6 mile square site an important archaeological site, it is also a National Ecological Park with hundred’s of species of fauna, many of which our guide pointed out to us along the trail.I wish I could remember all the names, but atleast I took pictures.
Dzibilchaltun was a major city for the Mayan. In fact, it is estimated that it could have been occupied by 20,000 Maya at once. In the sweltering heat, we were thankful that our guide led us down a shaded trail beside the stone road that connects the House of the Seven Dolls to the main plaza. The stone road is called a “sacbes”, which in my understanding means “white road” because at the time of the Mayan, this is the color the road would have been, due to the top layer of limestone that was used during construction.
As far as my family was concerned, the House of the Seven Dolls was the main attraction. It received its name from the effigy dolls that were found in the excavation of the temple. It’s possible that the dolls were offered on the altar as sacrifices. The dolls can now be seen in the museum when it’s open.
The temple, which was used for religious and ceremonial purposes, aligns perfectly with the structure that I thought was a sun dial in front of the building.
The structure is mathematically aligned so that the doors of the temple align with the sun during the Spring and Autumnal Equinox, signaling the beginning of either the planting or harvest season. Today visitors arrive from all over the world to see this incredible phenomenon. Take a look:
Lisa wrote a great post this week on The Homeschool Classroom called Autumn Equinox Is A Geography Bonanza. I think you’ll find it very interesting.
Fortunately for us, or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it, we did not arrive on the equinox. Which meant that I had to come home and Google videos on YouTube to watch with the kids, but it also means that we didn’t have the crowds to contend with. We were able to climb and explore to our hearts content.
As cool as the House of the Seven Dolls was, I can’t wait to tell you about what we did next! But that will wait until next week. Until then ~ Happy Field Trippin’!
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