Mayan Architecture

Similar to their artwork, ancient Mayan architecture is intricate and ornate with dedication to detail. Spanning over hundreds of years, the Mayans populated Mesoamerica. Unlike their work of art, their architecture was something that managed to retain its image. At the height of their power, official buildings and religious temples were adored in complex patterns of deities and scenes from historical or mythical texts. This can be seen clearly in their ancient temples that dominated the land they inhabited.

Each city was unique in layout, as they followed the topography of the individual territories. While layouts and details of buildings and decorations were different from city to city, the design of the structures themselves, and how they would be located in position to one another, remained fairly universal. The Mayan cities were constructed sharply, with buildings arising sporadically, interrupting the almost unified grid-like setting that other Mesoamerican cities, from different cultures, possessed.

At the heart of each city were the plazas surrounded by governmental buildings along with the occasional ball court. One of the more recognizable figures of Mayan architecture, were pyramids and temples. The pyramids ascended into the sky, with steep steps that cut through the stone. Often with prominent tiers, a roof comb heightened the sanctuaries on top.

Temples, like the one of El Zotz, were dedicated to the god of the sun. Faces protrude out of the stone and are lifelike in their detail. This was often something that was difficult to accomplish for if the face stuck out too far, it would fall off. These structures were made of locally found materials, limestone, volcanic tuff and sandstone. Stone tools cut through these materials while lime cement was burned to create a concrete form.

The exteriors of these structures were often decorated with deities, while the interior was home to grand murals and carvings, dedicated to its inhabitants. These temples were places of worship and sacrifice, or tombs for the elite. Stuccos inside the buildings would be colorful and would express the purpose of the temple or pyramid. An example of this would be the temple of Bonampak, with its lavish interiors relaying the importance of the individual residing in it.

Architecture, similar to other art forms produced by the Mayan’s, was grand in its attention to intricacy. Each piece a living testimony to the adoration the people held for the stories the structures told, and the purpose each one served.

Tia Ramirez



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