Discover the ancient history of Mexico’s iconic complexes of Chichen Itza
Chichen Itza is the site of one of the largest ancient Mayan cities. It was constructed between 750 and 900 AD. This UNESCO World Heritage site is one of the largest archaeological sites in Mexico and attracts more than 2.5 million visitors each year. The architects of Chichen Itza levelled the uneven ground of the site to build their city. Archaeologists have discovered several distinct groupings of structures that were once separated by low walls; the Great North Platform, the Osario Group and the Central Group.
The Osario Group includes many fascinating structures at Chichen Itza including:
The Temple of Xtoloc
The Platform of Venus
The Platform of the Tombs
Casa Colorada - Red House
Casa del Venado - House of the Deer
The Osario is a temple, similar to the Temple of Kukulkan, but smaller. It is a 4-sided step-pyramid with staircases on each side. On the top of The Osario is a temple that includes an opening in the center to a natural cave 12 meters (39 ft) below.
The cave was excavated in the late 1800’s by Edward H. Thompson. Based on the discovery of skeletal remains and artifacts he concluded the pyramid was a tomb for priests, and named it “The High Priests’ Temple”. The latest recorded hieroglyphic at Chichen Itza can be found in the Osario temple, dating back to 998 AD.
The Osario temple has been the site of numerous archaeological explorations. Currently archaeological efforts are supervised by Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History. Modern archaeologists no longer think that The Osario structure is a tomb.
Between the Osario and Xtoloc temple are several aligned structures that extend in a row: the Platform of Venus, the Platform of the Tombs, and a small, round unnamed structure. The Osario platform ends with a wall that contains a small opening to a raised paved road called a sacbe. The sacbe runs several hundred feet to the Xtoloc temple.
The Temple of Xtoloc & Cenote Xtoloc
The Cenote Xtoloc is a large cenote to the south of the Great North platform and east of the Osario temple. The Temple Xtoloc overlooks the cenote. The temple has 3 chambers and contains pilasters with carved representations of plants, birds, and people. The temple was likely used for religious ceremonies. Human remains were discovered at the site in a container, believed to be used for offerings to the Gods. Xtoloc is the Maya word for a common iguana from the region.
The Platform of Venus
This platform is similar in design to the Platform of Venus found in the Great North complex, next to El Castillo. The platform was likely dedicated to the planet venus. It’s purpose is unknown.
The Platform of the Tombs
The Platform of Tombs is so named because it contains three chambers where human remains were found. All of the remains were male and in very poor condition. Archaeologists also found broken vessels, jade objects, shell ornaments, a copper rattle, and a rock crystal which may have been part of a mask.
The platform has six columns rising off of the main structure, which is 1.6 meters high. There are intertwined snakes carved in relief.
House of Metates & House of the Mestizas
Also known as “The House of the Grinding Stone”, these two structures are located at the southern boundary of the Osario platform. These structures are thought to be residences for important people because of the architecture, specifically the Atlantean Columns. There was an abundance of grinding stones, earthenware fragments and pottery shards found at the site.
Casa Colorada (Chichanchob)
The Casa Colorada is one of the best preserved structures at Chichen Itza and has been the focus of restoration for the last decade. It is so named because of the red hue of the walls. Casa Colorada has also been called Chichanchob, which may mean "small holes” in Maya.
The monument is composed of one large front chamber, three chambers in the rear, and a large terrace that is 62 feet long and 55 ft wide. This structure is unique at Chichen Itza because it is one of the few features that contain a lintel with caved glyphs. The hieroglyphs mention three rulers, including K’inich Jun Pik To’ok, and a fire ritual. The glyphs have been dated to 879 AD, and are among the oldest identified at Chichen Itza.
Adjacent to Casa Colorada is a recently restored ball court as well as one of only two stelae (ancient stone slabs used for monuments or commemoration) found at Chichen Itza.
House of the Deer - Casa del Venado
This half-standing building is located on the western boundary of the Osario group. It was so-named for a carving of a deer that was found by early explorers of the site. The carving can no longer be seen.
The building only has one full room that has been preserved. Casa del Venado is part of a plaza that also contains a residential complex and Casa Colorada.
Explore the fascinating ruins of the Osario group on your next visit to the Mayan Riviera. Book your Tour of Chichen Itza with Cancun Adventures.