The history represented in this set of ruins is truly impressive. The study of the site's development, growth and ultimate demise over several centuries (AD 600 -1200) offers insights into human nature, culture, and, social behavior. Chichen Itza represents a marvel of human accomplishment, and, provides a lasting tribute to the ingenuity of what some people might regard as primitive people. The ability to build such structures with the technology available at the time is astonishing. On the face of it one can simply enjoy the massive buildings and the stories of the guides, if you choose to use one. But to get the most of the opportunity to view this city of the past, it helps if you study about Chichen Itza before you come. If you take joy in history, architecture, and, have a keen desire plus the imagination to try to see this site and its people as they once were, then you will be enthralled. If you want to see where and how one of the great early civilizations in the Americas once lived, then you will not feel the heat of the day nor let the intrusions of the flea market vendors distract you. Your vision will allow you to overlook the mundane and to focus on the fantastic. And this place is fantastic. But be sure to judge your level of interest before you commit to what can be a long day and a trial - especially if you are not particularly captivated by what I have described.
It is especially surprising to learn about and observe the ancient builders' use of acoustics. The astronomical and mathematical prowess of the Mayan people is well known, but often overlooked is the acoustical genius exhibited in their structures. There are several examples at this site. The most common ones are the use of echoes and especially clapping at the base of the pyramid and in the ball field. If, for example, you do what the vast majority of visitors do and clap just in front of the pyramid, then you might hear an echoing sound similar to that of the call of the quetzal - a bird considered important in Mayan ceremonies. However if you move away from the pyramid back towards the beginning of the causeway that leads to the Cenote Sagrado, then you will hear the sounds more clearly. There, whenever the tourists clap in front of the pyramid, you will hear a remarkably clear echo that actually sounds like the cry of the quetzal bird. You no longer distinguish the sounds of the claps like you do closer in. There is also the rattle of the serpent off to the side after the bird call, and, when the steps of the pyramid are climbed, the footfalls sound like falling rain. The use of drums, not clapping, likely enhanced the sound effects at the actual Mayan ceremonies. All these sounds were key symbols in the religious beliefs of the Mayans. The sun and rain were necessary to life itself given the agricultural basis of their society so the gods to be appeased and celebrated were naturally aligned with that societal structure. The impact of the displays of light at certain times of the year as well as the overall architecture supported by the acoustical effects were intended to be awe inspiring. The sights and sounds of Chichen Itza were designed to astonish the people of the time and perhaps to give them a sense of reverence. Is it any wonder that even today people are still amazed, surprised and even impressed by these magical aspects of an ancient city in the jungle?