Restored el Castillo, the Temple of the Plumed Serpent, Chichen Itza, Yucatan, Mexico.
At the time of their discovery, the Mayan Indians had attained a higher culture than any of the native American people. In el Castillo, the Great Temple of Kukulkan, we see a predominant characteristic of Mayan structures, the artificial elevation in the form of a pyramid. The great Kukulkan, or Plumed Serpent, is the highest god of the Mayas. His temple is erected on a pyramid that rises steeply in nine splendid terraces to a height of a hundred feet. There are four mighty staircases that lead to the top. The balustrades represent the bodies of serpents descending from the temple, each balustrade a single serpent.
At the base of the pyramid lie their terrifying stone heads, jaws wide open and the original paint still visible after six hundred years. The effect is staggering. The stairs are so steep it is frightening to ascend them and a backward glance should not be attempted for it is certain to make one dizzy.
Ascending, you will count ninety-one steps. Multiply this by four and you have three hundred and sixty-four. Adding one for the final platform, to which the staircases all lead, you have three hundred and sixty-five, the days of a year. Everything about this pyramid adds up to some kind of calendar significance. The Mayas were the greatest astronomers of the ancient world and their calendar was as perfect as our own although based on very different ideas.