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City of the Sun: Early Postclassic (900-1150C.E.) Chichen Itza and the Legacy of Solar Ideology in Late Postclassic Yucatan and Central Mexico

  • Author(s): Coltman, Jeremy D
  • Advisor(s): Taube, Karl A.
  • et al.

The Early Postclassic (900-1150 A.D.) metropolis of Chichen Itza, Yucatan, Mexico, arose from the ashes of the Classic Maya collapse and ushered in a new era that synthesized the old and new with the local and foreign. One of the many unique things about Chichen Itza was an ideology that centered around a single event—the ascent of the dawning sun on the road of the plumed serpent out of the eastern sea. This daily event was at the center of an ideology based upon solar worship. Despite the perplexing little amount of solar imagery from Classic and epi-Classic Central Mexico, it is likely that the origins of the solar cult can be found among the earlier Classic Maya with it reaching a level of state ideology at Chichen Itza. Solar ideology was taken to new heights at Chichen Itza where there are more concentrated representations of the sun god than anywhere in all Mesoamerica. In this dissertation, I will look at the cultural and material dynamics of solar ideology at Chichen Itza in order to gain a more nuanced understanding of cultural exchange, art, and religion during the Early Postclassic Period. The sun god, plumed serpent, and souls of heroic warriors were closely associated with heart sacrifice and blood that sustained them on their daily journey to the eastern solar paradise, a place of shimmering brilliance and beauty characterized by a rain of flowers, jewels, and flames. Chichen Itza likely represented this symbolic paradise on earth and may have even been recognized as such by their contemporaries in western Mesoamerica. The solar ideology reflected at Chichen Itza made the site a virtual “City of the Sun” where conceptions of the dawning sun, plumed serpent, heart sacrifice, and paradise blended effortlessly together. This solar ideology spread into Central Mexico by way of the ideological relationship shared between Chichen Itza and contemporaneous Tula, a legacy that can be seen centuries later in the Late Postclassic International Style, including the Aztec and Mixteca-Puebla substyles.

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