Sunday, April 14, 2013

Temple of Warriors

The Temple of Warriors By: Sam Harshman

The Temple of the Warriors, or Guerreros, was built between 950 and 1000 A.D. by the Toltec conquerors of Yucatan. It is located in the city of Chichen Itza in the northeastern part of the state of Yucatan in Mexico. Yucatan's climate is typically warm and humid because of its location to the Caribbean Sea. The average temperature falls in the range of seventy-seven to eighty-one degrees Fahrenheit, rarely falling below sixty-one degrees Fahrenheit, and rarely falling above one-hundred-twenty degrees Fahrenheit. The average annual rainfall in this part of Yucutan is forty-five inches. The majority of this rainfall occurs during the summer months of May through August. The topography of the site is relatively flat. (Advameg Inc, 2007)

The temple was designed by Ah Haleb, a Mayan Rebel, even though the Mexicanized Itza had been masters of the city for a long time. He spent many hours walking through Chichen Itza, keeping his eye over all, to make sure all was being done the way he wanted it done. (Thompson, 1954, p. 204) Thompson (1954) writes about a day in the life of Ah Haleb. This is a section from his book about Ah Haleb in the Temple of the Warriors as it was being constructed:

Entering the temple, the architect paused to accustom his eyes to the dim light. The artists responsible for the murals were not at work, for the light was bad; they would work in the afternoon when the western sun streamed through the triple entrance to the temple. Considerable progress had been made with the painting of the great mural; the bold preliminary outlining in a tawny red had been completed several days before and had given Ah Haleb a good idea of how the scenes would appear. (p. 20)

Columns were the main structural component of the temple itself. Two of these columns were made to look like feathered serpents. Their heads looked like dragons with feathers coming off the top. Temples made with these feathered-serpent columns were dedicated to Kukulcan, the Feathered Serpent, who was the patron deity of Chichen Itza. (Morley, 1946, p.285) The two feathered serpent columns face the Chac Mool who is reclining and looking west towards the Great Plaza. Above the serpent's head is a symbol of the Mexican invasion.

Other symbols of the Temple include: stone altars with friezes of jaguars, tigers, eagles and death's heads, warriors decorating the four faces of the pillars in the Temple, and little figures that supported the altar in the Temple of the Warriors.

The construction of the Temple of the Warriors was a very tedious and well thought out
task. The buildings at Chichen Itza were built by sculptors. Every piece had to be molded out of
a mortar. To make this mortar, first a kiln had to be made. Thompson (1954) wrote about the
making of a kiln and what it was used for;

In the center a pole, about nine feet high, had been set up, and, on the ground around it, large logs of hardwood had been layed at intervals like the spokes of a great
wheel with the diameter of about twenty feet. (p 204)

In between these spokes was filled with smaller pieces of wood, even the crevices were filled
with even finer bits of hardwood. On top of this was a pile of limestone chunks, no bigger than
baseballs, about two feet high at the perimeter sloping up to about three feet towards the center.
The pole was then removed from the center, leaving a hole all the way down to the spokes of the
hardwood. After the pole was removed, burning embers were dropped in the remaining holes.
The hard wood would eventually catch fire and eventually even burn the limestone. The fire
would not burn out until the next morning, leaving the limestone in a heap of powder. The
powder would be several times larger than the chunks, because of moisture in the air.

After this process was finished, the powdered limestone would be moved to the place
where the mortar was mixed. The powdered limestone was mixed with an ingredient called
sascab, a white marl. This mixing of the two ingredients was a very important step to making mortar. It was so important that even Ah Haleb had to go around and make sure it was the right consistency. (Thompson, 1954, p. 207) The following is the way Thompson (1954) viewed a Ah Haleb's typical mortar test;

The architect stopped to watch one of the mixers stir the mass with a wooden paddle, sampled the resulting mixture by rubbing a little between his fingers, and, enjoining the mixer not to weaken the proportions, passed on. (p. 207)

After the mortar was mixed, the mason's assistants had to put the mortar in pails and carry them to the masons up ladders. The masons would then use the mortar to make the columns, roofs and whatever else was being built at the time. After the mortar would set up, the sculptors would come and sculpt out feathered serpents or even Chac Mool statues. (Thompson, 1954, p. 207)

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