Chichen Itza

My blog post is a little different this week, but hey, we can’t talk about stone resurfacing all the time right? Today, I want to write about my recent trip to Mexico where I had the opportunity to visit the Chichen Itza Mayan ruins. As you can imagine, it is breathtaking to see this ancient culture, but what I didn’t know was what a huge part limestone had to do with their civilization.


Just to remind you, limestone is a calcareous stone, which means that it reacts (etches) when it comes in contact with acid, ammonia and alcohol. Limestone can appear to have a consistent color or there are certain limestones that contain small fossils. Limestone is a popular material for both residential and commercial properties today.


As I stood in front of the ancient Temple of Kukulcan in Chichen Itza, the tour guide asked our group to start clapping our hands together in sync and loudly.  As we did so, the ziggurat (or pyramid) surprisingly echoed a loud chirping sound!  We all looked at the tour guide, wondering how this acoustic phenomenon was possible.


She told us the chirping sound mimics the voice of the sacred quetzal bird. Apparently, the location of the limestone structures, the shape of the steps and the porosity of the limestone itself create this chirping echo effect. She went on to say there are acoustic qualities in the Mayan limestone architecture. The chirping echoes had a religious meaning to the Mayans. According to the tour guide, the Mayans could “hear their gods” when listening to this sound that resonated off the limestone structure.


I certainly am not a historian or expert in these matters, but this experience made me have an even deeper appreciation for limestone and all stones in general. Because these ancient cultures built their buildings and houses with natural stone, these constructions have survived thousands of years. It is so striking to see ancient structures, such as Chichen Itza, the pyramids of Egypt, the Coliseum in Rome and the Acropolis in Athens, still standing in our modern world. What a strong, beautiful and powerful building material that not only our ancestors used, but also we use in our homes and buildings today.