The history of Chichen Itza, as is true of the history of many ancient cities, is somewhat clouded in mystery. What is known about the city is that it was originally built by the Maya and that it first started to come into real prominence around the seventh century. Farmers had already inhabited the area for a few hundred years, though they didn’t leave such established footprints behind.
One of the most interesting facts about Chichen Itza relates to its construction period. The city was built over the course of centuries. The earliest structures that hint at its role as an urban center date back to the seventh century, and they include temples and palaces. The Maya, who were responsible for these original buildings, continued to expand the city for approximately another two hundred years.
In the tenth century, or the post-Classic Era, the Itzaes moved in and assumed control of Chichen Itza. Likely a mix of Toltec Indians and lowland Maya, the Itzaes oversaw the city’s greatest growth period. This was the period when some of the site’s most impressive structures were being built, and it is interesting to note the mix of Toltec and Maya styles while on Chichen Itza tours.
Today, Chichen Itza is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the ruins at Chichen Itza figure among the Yucatan Peninsula’s top tourist attractions. Back during its heyday, on the other hand, it was a major regional capital and quite the economic power to contend with. As for the city’s eventual decline, it was generally assumed until recently that Chichen Itza was sacked by the rival Mayapan near the beginning of the thirteenth century. This may not be true, as there is archaeological evidence that seems to point to the city being sacked around 1000 A.D. Either way, this didn’t mark the end of Chichen Itza as a population center. The Spanish encountered a healthy resident population when they arrived in the 1500's, and once this population was expelled, they used the city for their own purposes.