Platform of Venus in the foreground and El Castillo in the back
Photo by: Alskan Dude, Creative Commons
One of the most popular archaeological tourist destinations in Mexico is the ancient Maya city of Chichen Itza. This site, recently named one of the New Seven Wonders of the World, includes several popular attractions. One of the lesser-known features that is well worth seeing is the Platform of Venus, located between El Castillo (a temple to the serpent god Kukulkan) and the Cenote Sagrado (a natural sinkhole serving as a Maya water source).
Archaeologists have yet to learn exactly how the Maya used the Platform of Venus, though they do know that it was dedicated to the planet Venus. Astronomy was important to the Maya culture. They are known to have accurately tracked planetary movements, and attempts at predicting based on the position of Venus. In Maya mythology, Venus is known as a deity and thought to be the companion of the sun.
The Platform of Venus is a short structure, flat on top, with stairs on all sides leading to the platform. Inside this small temple, many carved stone cones of various sizes were discovered. The origin of these cones is unknown, and their use in Maya worship is still a mystery. Artful carvings grace the stone walls of the platform.
This must-see attraction is only a few meters from the beginning of a path, known as the Sacbe Number One. According to archeologists, there once was a massive structure and columns at the entrance to this path. It leads to the Cenote Sagrado and is the most elaborate of these paths found in Chichen Itza.
The Platform remains a source of mystery and debate. Many believe it was an astronomical observatory, while others insist it was simply a temple dedicated to the worship of Venus. Whatever the ancient use, it remains a fascinating tourist attraction and tribute to what is known – as well as what is still undiscovered about this ancient civilization.