Friday, May 9, 2014

Answer: Find a 360 view from the top!

The Challenges this week are straightforward enough:  

1.  Find the place where this jaguar throne was found. What is the name of the building where it was found?  

2.  Find a picture taken from the top of the building where the throne was found.  (Hint: You should be able to look in all directions with this one image.)  

3.  Nearby there is an arena where a very particular ball game was played.  Can you see the arena from the top of the place where the jaguar throne was found?  (For extra credit: What game was played in that arena?)  

Answers:  Finding the jaguar throne and the place where it was found is pretty simple.  The query: 

     [ jaguar throne ] 

leads to bunch of resources, including the very nice Wikipedia article on Chichen Itza where you'll learn that the jaguar throne was discovered in "El Castillo," ("the castle") which is also known as the Temple of Kukulkan (a Maya feathered serpent deity similar to the Aztec Quetzalcoatl). 

The Temple of Kukulkan is located in northern part of the Chichen Itza complex, where it has stood since roughly 830 AD as the centerpiece of the regional capital of Chichen Itza. The city has more-or-less been continually occupied by people since its construction, although it seems to have been conquered and sacked a few times.  

Facade of El Castillo (1887), from
"The Ancient Cities of the New World."
For topics like this (historical and somewhat popular), I like to also check in with other resources.  Books is an obvious one, so I went to and searched for: 

     [ "el castillo" Chicha Itza ] 

and found a treasure trove of resources (including archaeological journals).  One of the more interesting finds was a book written in 1887 by Désiré Charnay and published in Guatemala.  The Ancient Cities of the New world: Being voyages and explorations in Mexico and Central America from 1857-1882 has many illustrations of the site from the late 19th century, which is about when the modern interest in understanding the work of the Mayan began.  

Of course, as with all older documents, you sometimes have to see things through their eyes.  In the book, the temple is still "El Castillo" but the Temple's name is "Chulukan."  More importantly, we've learned a LOT about the Mayan since 1887, and so some of the interpretations have to be weighed against more recent findings. 
Chichen Itza, El Castillo, photograph by Teobert Maler (1892)

But as a vision of what it was like to see Chichen Itza nearly 200 years ago, this is a fine yarn.  His description of walking around Chichen Itza in the moonlight is dreamy and lyrical--a fantastic vision of modernity encountering ancient ruins.  

HOW can we find a 360 image taken from the top of the Temple?  

To solve this, I turned to StreetView.  I know that's not obvious, but let me show you how. 

If you use Google Maps to look at Chichen Itza, you'll see the Temple / El Castillo easily enough.  (You can click on the image below to see it at full size.)  

This is the Earth view from Maps.  It shows where El Castillo is and has a few very nice photos of the place.  

But remember what we WANT is a 360 view.  How do we find that? 

Easy.  Zoom in tight on El Castillo, then click on Pegman (the little yellow man on the lower right side of the Maps interface).  

A single click will show all of the locations where Streetview imagery has been taken (and therefore places where you can drag the Pegman to see what's going on at that location).  Notice that a LOT of the site has viewable imagery.  

And now, if you click on the blue dot PhotoSphere marker at El Castillo, you'll see this: 

This is a Google PhotoSphere, a draggable image for 360 views from a location.  If you look at the bottom of the image, you'll see the date and credit (Nov 2007, Steven Dosremedios).  

Our last question was "What was the ball game played there, and can you see the arena from the top of El Castillo?"  

Again, the simplest query here is the best: 

     [ Chichen Itza ball court ] 

gives many articles on the game of Ōllamaliztli (or in modern form, ulama).  It has been played with rubber balls since 1,400 B.C. by the pre-Columbian peoples of Ancient Mexico and Central America. While there are many regional variations, the game of ulama is still played in area by the local indigenous population.  

The game was traditionally referred to by the Maya as Pok-Ta-Pok.  The Maya Twin myth of the Popol Vuh tells of the importance of the game as a symbol for warfare intimately connected to the theme of fertility (it's an interesting combination of ball-game playing, decapitation, fertility, human heads used as balls, calabashes, and squashes--you could go look it up...).

The ball court is marked on the maps as the "Estadio del juego de pelota," and if you look in the above Photosphere image, you can spot the corner of the arena in the upper part of the image, across the grassy field to the northwest.  
A modern ulama player from Sinaloa.
The ball and outfit are probably very
similar to what was used in Chichen Itza.
(Photo courtesy of Wikimedia.)
Of course, these ball games were probably played by everyone informally, and yet at times, we know there were high stakes versions of the game where the losers would be sacrificed at the end of the game.  (Take about being motivated to play hard!)  

Search lessons:  As usual, for straightforward questions like this, the simplest possible query often gets you to the best results quickly.  

However, sometimes you really DO need to know what's possible.  If you didn't know about PhotoSpheres, now you do.  They can sometimes be beautiful (such as this one from Haena State Park on Kauai) or stunning  (Golden Gate bridge photosphere).  

You now know the Maps trick for finding them.  (Be sure to zoom in enough so the blue dot is visible.)  

Another method is to search for the hashtag #photosphere in any of your favorite image collections.  (G+, Flickr, etc.)  

Enjoy your newfound ability to see the world in 360! 

Search on. 


  1. Hello Dr. Russell, Remmij and everyone!

    Thanks for this challenge. I enjoyed a lot. I live in Mexico and I know about Chichen Itza but I didn't know about Jaguar throne. It was great to know more about my country and the past civilization.

    I also didn't know about the blue dot to see Photospheres. I searched for them in Google Maps views. Your way is more easy to do and specially when looking to learn and see new places. Thanks for the links and for the knowledge, Dr. Russell.

    Thanks Remmij for your posts. Really nice ones as always. I admire your ability to find stuff. Well done, Sir!

  2. Margir takk, Ramón - Chich'en Itza virðist vera langt yfir vatnið frá hér í augnablikinu ...
    dancing across the vatn
    a true killer in the nuevo mundo - la viruela
    along with these lads

    a good reminder to check the Chrome browser, as Safari is still displaying the older version of GooMaps/retro PegNonGenderSpecificBot and it
    functions a bit differently than the new version in the answer… although the 'blue dot' is there… I like this one — la punta del caballo muerto

    also learned this term, associated with the ball courts (Mayan/Olmec & Aztec/Toltec) Tzompantli
    street view of the skull wall, thanks PegPerson
    @ Chich'en Itza
    in Mexico City - Aztec
    helpful blog
    wall of skulls
    turning the corner
    polychrome - courtesy of Daniele Romeo

    … and is it just me? or does the answer not quite sound like Dan's voice/style… where's Dando?
    Atlas Obscura “Descent of Kukulkan”

    a ghost from the recent sRs past… DrD's friends Marcin & Sarah courtesy:Troy Holden

    ... Tener un buen fin de semana mi amigo… you are a true searcher…

    1. Ramón - a couple other Goo tangentials to ponder before you power-off for some nonNet recode time…
      sir, the trick will soon be to not have the stuff find you… (´-`) .
      ¯\(°_o)/¯ hmmmmmmm
      will there be a paradise/gulag (/ˈgo͞oläg/) called #PRE95?
      where's Eric? was he fabricated by Astro & Sergey?
      look quick; the future becoming the past

      side note for RM, may be of help -
      source: Talk:Chichen Itza, cmd-F fatal fall…
      "Fatal fall from the top?[edit]
      Can anyone provide a hardline citation for this? My understanding is that INAH shut down all climbing to the tops of pyramids, especially the Castillo, due to excessive graffiti and vandalism. I think the "fatal fall from the top" is something that guides might say, even though people have been falling from pyramids in Mexico for a long time - I don't think INAH shut down the climbing due to one recent occurrence. Any thoughts? -- Oaxaca dan 22:40, 22 February 2007 (UTC)

      I think that unless someone can find some written directive to this effect, the sentence can safely be removed; even if true it's not really all that pertinent.
      One fatal incident which perhaps could bear mentioning here is the unfortunate demise of the archaeologist Dennis Puleston, struck by lightning in 1978 atop the Castillo.--cjllw | TALK 05:14, 23 February 2007 (UTC)
      On January 5, 2006, an 80-year-old woman from the San Diego area (Clairemont) fell while climbing El Castillo. Merida's Diario de Yucatan ("Fatal caída del Castillo de Chichén: Una turista de 80 años se resbala y cae desde 20 metros," 6 Jan. 2006) makes no mention of the closing of El Castillo. The earliest report by tourists of the closing of El Castillo to climbing that I was able to find was 18 Jan. On 3 March 2006, Diario de Yucatan reported that the closing was as a result the fatal fall ("Fin a una exención para los mexicanos: Pagarán el día del equinoccio en la zona arqueológica"). 19:19, 1 March 2007 (UTC)User:coyoteman31"

  3. Ramón in doing this challenge I read to variations regarding the closure to the public. Most referred to is that an 80 year old lady fell from the top down all the stairs. Second reference says it was closed due to erosion caused by tourists climbing. I wanted to find in a Mexican newspaper (spanish or english)the story of this lady. Alternatively find an official statement about the closure. So I looked briefly for newspaper archives. Then I thought why not ask an expert. You are our expert in that locale so I'll ask you. Are you aware of newspaper archives in Mexicon in either language?

    1. Hello, RoseMary. Thanks for your kind words. The expert is Dr. Russell the rest of us, we are only students learning each day.

      About what you ask, once I heard someone telling a prophecy that when 3 people fall from this special places (Palanque , Chichen Itza) the Earth will ascend. Until now, only 2 have fallen.

      This year Chichen Itza expected 35,000 visitors for the Equinox. Cost was 15.75 usd. (204 pesos) per person. In 2011 visitors in the year were 2,234,439.

      [archivos periodicos México]

      Hemerotecas digitales online en Español
      Hemeroteca Nacional México

      Today, for what I have read is not longer available to climb the Castle due to conservation efforts.

      More on Chichen Itza:

      Mexico Archaeological sites
      Beam in Kukulkan video

      Hope this helps, RoseMary.

      Thanks Remmij for the links, very interesting!

    2. Thanks Ramón for these links. If I find time I may pursue the story I referred to earlier.

      Remmij yes interesting and sometimes I even understand. I would like to see a bit more detail before clicking on some of those links. I sometimes have no idea where you are heading with the link but would like to know when I get there.

    3. Good Day.

      Yesterday I saw a TV special of Calakmul. It is located in Campeche, Mexico and is also Maya.

      Here some links.

      Calakmul Unesco
      Calakmul videos
      Calakmul photo gallery

  4. I'll be watching for those blue dots from now on.

    How'd I ever miss them ?