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Yucatan Buys Chichen Itza for $220M

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By Evan J. Albright

After 500 years of private ownership, Chichen Itza is now the property of the state of Yucatan. What took so long?

With the quick sweep of a pen, Mexico's state of Yucatan purchased the central archaeological zone of Chichen Itza, a UNESCO heritage site and Wonder of the World.

Unknown to the millions of tourists around the world who visit the site each year, Chichen Itza has been privately owned for the past 500 years. On March 29, 2010, Hans Jurgen Thies Barbachano, owner of the property upon which some of the world's most recognizable monuments rest, agreed to sell his interest in Chichen Itza to the state of Yucatan for $220 million Mexican ($17.6 million US).

The transaction ends more than a decade of controversy between the property's owners, the state and federal governments, and various stakeholder groups, all of which have been vying for control of the restored ancient city.

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The Casa Colorada Ball Court

INAH Turns Mounds into Monuments

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Among some of the oldest structures in the Chichen Itza archaeological zone is the Casa Colorada group. For the past few weeks a team of archaeologists and workers from Mexico's National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH), under the direction of Jose Francisco Osorio Leon, have been excavating several of the buildings, looking for clues that they hope will provide them with answers as to the early settlement of the ancient city.

Adjoining the main building in the group is a ball court which until very recently was in ruins. This is the focus of study by INAH archaeologists.

Last week Dr. Steven Fry visited Chichen Itza in the company of Dr. Peter Schmidt of INAH. What follows is a report of his visit.

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