Temple of the Seven Dolls in Dzibilchaltún

Temple of the Seven Dolls in Dzibilchaltun

The Temple of the Seven Dolls in Dzibilchaltún is the most important monument of this Mayan Archaeological Site. The Temple got its name from the seven crude clay dolls placed beneath the floor of the early temple.

It’s also known as the Temple of the Sun because of the phenomenon that occurs twice a year, in the equinoxes of spring and autumn, when the dawning sun is visible through its openings, a tribute to the incredible mathematical knowledge of the Maya.

This square structure was the focal point of the city, and well connected to the rest of the other groups and cenote by Sacbes, or “white roads”, named because they were originally covered with white limestone, built on top of rocks and rubble.

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Outlined hands

Eight human hands were outlined in red-brown pigment on the inner walls of the north shrine. Apparently were placed at random on the rear wall. The fingers of the hands pointed up. One palm contained an oval of dark red paint, and another hand had a glob of pigment above each of the four fingers. In each case a right hand 15.5-16 cm long had been traced, suggesting that one person’s hand was used and that all hands were outlined at the same time.

The discovery of the Temple of the seven dolls

During 1942, researchers noticed several bits of intact masonry protruding through a big pile of rubble at the eastern end of Sacbe 1. This made them think that a structure may be buried underneath and found a totally collapsed pyramidal platform.

The temple when it was found
The temple when it was found

For some reason, around the year 800, the temple was filled with stones and covered with another larger building on top. The remains of this second building still partially cover it on the west side.

The overlapping constructions

Temple of the Seven Dolls in Dzibilchaltun is actually made up of 3 consecutive overlapping constructions. The first dates from 300 BCE, which was filled to build a second temple, as can be seen to this day.

How the Temple was buried
How the Temple was buried

When archaeologists excavated around the first temple, they found two flint knives in perfect condition, bone needles, fish bones, stone beads, and others.

The temple and stairways that we can see today correspond to the second period, whose construction dates from the year 500. The original beams were subinché trunks, a relatively narrow but extremely hard wood.

Sacbe 1 in Dzibilchaltun

The central east-west Sacbe is the most important of Dzibilchaltun leading from the Seven Dolls Group, to the Central Group, and continuing to the Xlakah Cenote. It’s around 1.7 km long, averaging 20 m in width and 1.5 m in height. At the edge were terraces constructed of loose rubble covered by plaster floors.

The Equinox in Dzibilchaltun

The Mayans used the sun as a basis for planning their lives because they depended on agriculture. The planting began with the spring equinox and the harvest with autumn equinox. The Mayans built complex structures using very advanced geometry as well as astronomy to make maps of solar cycles.

Temple of the Seven Dolls in Dzibilchaltun Equinox

The Dzibilchaltun – Chichen Itza Equinox challenge

If you’re up to the challenge, you can see both phenomena on the same day because the morning equinox takes place in the Temple of the Seven Dolls in Dzibilchaltun, and the evening equinox takes place in the Kukulkan Pyramid in Chichen Itza, which makes it possible to see both astronomical events on the same day.

The equinoxes are on March 20 and September 23. In Chichen Itza you can see the Serpent Effect for 4 days before and after the exact date, but in Dzibilchaltun you can only see the event on the day of the equinox.

Physical description of the Temple of the Seven Dolls in Dzibilchaltun

Temple of the Seven Dolls in Dzibilchaltun from the side
Temple of the Seven Dolls in Dzibilchaltun from the side

The Temple

The Temple of the Seven Dolls, which was almost completely covered by the rubble fill, is a roughly square building containing a continuous vaulted corridor surrounding a small, raised central chamber.

This building has a central hall surrounded by a corridor with four entrances facing each of the cardinal points. The entrances facing towards the west and the east have windows next to each side, this may have been used as an astronomical observatory.

The walls are of poor quality because instead of mortar, mud was used to join the stones. Also, the walls are not perfectly smooth, contrary to what happens in all parts of the Mayan Peninsula at the same time.

Architectural design viewed from above
Architectural design viewed from above

The interior and exterior walls are massive, reaching approximately 110 cm in width, almost double that of most later building walls at Dzibilchaltun. The rough limestone blocks vary greatly in dimensions and were easy to carry by only one man. Because of the different stone sizes, it could only be laid in a rough approximation.

The form of the building sets it apart from any other known Maya structure, and the techniques used in its construction differ significantly from those in any building previously reported in the northern lowlands.


The Temple of the Seven Dolls sits on a square of two terraces with the faces oriented roughly to the cardinal points (the north-south axial line runs about 4° east of true north).

The basal width of the bottom terrace averages 23 m, and its height averages 2.6 m.
The second terrace, averaging 8.5 m wide at its base and 2.17 m high.
Both terraces have a batter of about 62°.

Architectural design viewed from the front (west)
Architectural design viewed from the front (west)

It has broad stairways on all four sides continuous with that of the terraces, which provide access to the temple. Nine steps (north side) or 10 (west side), 13.2 m wide, reach the top of the basal terrace; another eight steps, 11 m wide, lead to the top of the platform.

The stairs are steep, and the steps narrow, which made it difficult to climb them. The staircases on the 4 sides reach the height of the first temple, the corners are decorated with stylized masks of the God of Rain. On the west staircase, there was apparently an oratory, the niche is preserved.

Inset masonry shrines, 2.8 m wide and 2 m high, were centered on the edge of the second step of the upper staircase.

There are also eight stucco masks on the frieze of the temple, as well as snakes, griffins, sea animals, and feathers, all sculpted in stucco.

Group of the seven dolls

Areal view of the seven dolls group
Areal view of the seven dolls group

Near the Temple of the seven dolls, you can see other buildings, some of them were also used as observatories of constellations and Venus.

Recreation of the group of the seven dolls
Recreation of the group of the seven dolls

Location of the Temple of the Seven Dolls in Dzibilchaltun

The Temple of the Seven Dolls in Dzibilchaltun is located at the edge of the Sacbe 1, on the opposite side of the Xlakah Cenote.



Hi, I'm Sergio, the creator of Mayan Peninsula where I specialize in publishing everything related to Mayan Archaeological Sites in the form of eBooks, audio, 360º photos, videos, and more.
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