Great Ball Court

Chichen Itza contain no less than 13 ball courts, but the Great Ball Court is by far the most impressive. At 545 by 223 feet (166 x 68 meter) it is the largest ball court in Mesoamerica. The ball court has an I-shaped playing ground and a small temple at either end. To the north stands the North Temple or Temple of the Bearded Man, a small masonry building with detailed bas-relief carvings on the inner walls, including a center figure that has carving under his chin that resembles facial hair. At the south end stand another, much bigger temple, but in ruins.

The Great Ball Court was dedicated in 864 AD and is radically different than any other Mayan ball court, which are smaller and have sloping sided courts. The two vertical walls of the Great Ball Court are 39 feet high (12 meter) high with rings carved with intertwining serpents in the center of each wall. Both walls are carved with scenes showing teams of ball players. One panel shows a headless player kneeling with blood shooting from his neck, while another player holds the head.

One of the rings.

One of the rings.

Built into the east wall are the Temples of the Jaguar. The Upper Temple of the Jaguar overlooks the ball court and has an entrance guarded by 2 large columns carved in the familiar feathered serpent motif. Inside there is a badly damaged mural which depicts a battle scene. The Lower Temple of the Jaguar, which opens behind the ball court, contained a Jaguar throne, similar to the one in the inner temple of El Castillo. The outer columns and the walls inside the temple are covered with elaborate bas-relief carvings.

Panorama photo by Brian Snelson