The Pyramid of El Castillo at Chichen Itza was constructed to correspond to the Mayan astrological year. Each side contains 91 stairs, with a final step at the summit, for a total of 365 steps. The Pyramid was built to commemorate the equinoxes, which are the two days of the year when there is an equal amount of day and darkness. By counting the steps, it is possible to tell the date exactly. The first eclipse of the sun on August 13, 582 A.D., prompted the builders to finish the structure immediately. It was probably used as a temple for religious ceremonies.
The number 365 has many meanings for people around the world. For Christians, it represents the life of Jesus Christ. For Muslims, it refers to the complete cycle of the earth's daily rotation around its axis (day and night). For astronomers, it is the number of steps required to climb Mount Everest. No one knows why the builders of Chichen Itza chose to construct their great monument without any help from outside sources. Some historians believe they may have been trying to show off their own power, while others think they may have been trying to mark the beginning or end of some period in Maya history. Whatever their reasons, today we can still count every step up the pyramid.
After the city had been abandoned, anyone who went up the pyramid would meet another person at the top. This is because everyone died climbing the steps - the only ones left alive were the very old or very young.
El Castillo's four sides each have 91 stairs that, when combined together and including the temple platform, equal the 365 days of the solar year. Each of the nine terraces is split into two sections, for a total of 18, representing the number of months in the Maya calendar. The upper section of the stairway was probably used for ceremonial purposes while the lower section may have been occupied by common people.
The outer walls of El Castillo are divided into nine horizontal panels, which represent the nine planets of the Solar System. These panels were most likely added after the building of the structure itself because earlier drawings show that there were only six panels. The inclusion of the seventh planet, Uranus, could be an error because it wasn't discovered until 1781 so it would have been impossible to know about it then. However, some scientists believe that Mars might have been meant to represent Uranus because they both have similar sizes and orbits within the Milky Way Galaxy.
Chichen Itza was one of the first cities in Mexico to be built up around an urban center rather than on a peninsula or other elevated ground. This type of city layout is now known as a "central-place" theory city because it was designed with trade routes coming in from all directions as well as water access for fishing and trading.
The stairs and panels of El Castillo were not part of the original construction of the city but were added later.
Chichen Itza was a Mayan metropolis in modern-day Mexico. The image below depicts El Castillo, commonly known as the Pyramid of Kukulcan, a pyramid in the Chichen Itza ruins. The temple at the pyramid's apex is roughly 24 meters above ground, and there are 91 stairs going up to it. That makes the total height of the structure 93 meters.
The original estimate for the number of steps leading up to the top of the pyramid was 7,000. However, research conducted by Evan Haustos has shown that this number is likely over 2000. The study also estimated that it would have taken about an hour to climb up them with no rest stops.
In 2014, a team of American researchers led by Elizabeth Graham completed a detailed survey of the Pyramid of Kukulcán. They used laser rangefinders to measure the distance between each step of the pyramid, and they estimated that there were only 6134 steps in total. This means that if you added up all the steps on the image above, you would be almost exactly at the top of the pyramid. The study also estimated that it would have taken about two hours to climb up them with no rest stops.
Number of steps on a typical staircase: 5-9 per meter (33-100 feet)
Average height of a step: 0.05-0.1 m (0.5-3 feet)