Temple of the Skulls

Alongside the Great Ball Court is the Temple of the Skulls, one of the most gruesome temples in Chichen. It is a low platform covered on all sides by rows of carved skulls. Other carvings show a scene with a human sacrifice, eagles eating human hearts and skeletonized warriors with shields and arrows. The heads of sacrificial victims were displayed here, together with those of the players who lost the famous Mayan ball game. Although the Temple of the Skulls is one of three platforms in the Great Plaza, it was according to the Spanish bishop Diego de Landa, the only one used for this purpose. The others were for farces and comedies, indicating a more fun side of the Itzá’s.

Temple of the Skulls

Similar platforms are found in other parts of central America as well. Built in the Toltec style, the temple at Chichen Itza is sometimes called the Tzompantli, which is actually an Aztec name.

Next to the Temple of the Skulls stands the small Platform of the Eagles with reliefs showing eagles and jaguars clutching human hearts in their claws, as well as a human head emerging from the mouth of a serpent. East of the Temple of the Skulls and north of El Castillo, near the road to the Sacred Cenote, is the Platform of Venus. In Maya and Toltec folklore, a feathered serpent with a human head in its mouth represented Venus.