With the decipherment of the Maya script it was discovered that the Maya were one of the few civilizations where artists attached their name to their work.
Maya architecture spans many thousands of years; yet, often the most dramatic and easily recognizable as Maya are the stepped pyramids from the Terminal Pre-classic period and beyond. HP Compaq HSTNN-DB05 Battery
There are also cave sites that are important to the Maya. These cave sites include Jolja Cave, the cave site at Naj Tunich, theCandelaria Caves, and the Cave of the Witch. There are also cave-origin myths among the Maya. Some cave sites are still used by the modern Maya in the Chiapas highlands. HP Compaq HSTNN-DB06 Battery
It has been suggested[who?] that temples and pyramids were remodeled and rebuilt every fifty-two years in synchrony with the Maya Long Count Calendar. It appears now that the rebuilding process was often instigated by a new ruler or for political matters, as opposed to matching the calendar cycle. However, the process of rebuilding on top of old structures is indeed a common one. HP Compaq HSTNN-DB0E Battery
Most notably, the North Acropolis at Tikal seems to be the sum total of 1,500 years of architectural modifications. In Tikal, Yaxha and Ixlu there were twin pyramid complexes. There were nine in Tikal and one each in Yaxha and Ixlu; at Tikal they were used to commemorate the end of a 20-year k'atun cycle. HP Compaq HSTNN-DB11 Battery
Through observation of the numerous consistent elements and stylistic distinctions, remnants of Maya architecture have become an important key to understanding the evolution of their ancient civilization.
As Maya cities spread throughout the varied geography of Mesoamerica, site planning appears to have been minimal. HP Compaq HSTNN-DB16 Battery
Maya architecture tended to integrate a great degree of natural features, and their cities were built somewhat haphazardly as dictated by the topography of each independent location. For instance, some cities on the flat limestoneplains of the northern Yucatán grew into great sprawling municipalities, while others built in the hills of Usumacintautilized the natural loft of the topography to raise their towers and temples to impressive heights. HP Compaq HSTNN-DB28 Battery
However, some degree of order, as required in any large city, still prevailed.
Classic Era Maya urban design could easily be described as the division of space by great monuments and causeways. Open public plazas were the gathering places for people and the focus of urban design, while interior space was entirely secondary. HP Compaq HSTNN-DB29 Battery
Only in the Late Post-Classic era did the great Maya cities develop into more fortress-like defensive structures that lacked, for the most part, the large and numerous plazas of the Classic.
At the onset of large-scale construction during the Classic Era, a predetermined axis was typically established in a cardinal direction. HP Compaq HSTNN-DB67 Battery
Depending on the location of natural resources such as fresh-water wells, or cenotes, the city grew by using sacbeob (limed causeways or "white roads") to connect great plazas with the numerous platforms that created the sub-structure for nearly all Maya buildings. As more structures were added and existing structures re-built or remodeled, HP Compaq HSTNN-FB05 Battery
the great Maya cities seemed to take on an almost random identity that contrasted sharply with other great Mesoamerican cities such as Teotihuacan and its rigid grid-like construction.
At the heart of the Maya city were large plazas surrounded by the most important governmental and religious buildings, such as the royal acropolis, great pyramid temples and occasionally ball-courts. HP Compaq HSTNN-FB18 Battery
Though city layouts evolved as nature dictated, careful attention was placed on the directional orientation of temples and observatories so that they were constructed in accordance with Maya interpretation of the orbits of the heavenly bodies. Immediately outside of this ritual center were the structures of lesser nobles, smaller temples, and individual shrines; HP Compaq HSTNN-FB51 Battery
the less sacred and less important structures had a greater degree of privacy. Outside of the constantly evolving urban core were the less permanent and more modest homes of the common people.
A surprising aspect of the great Maya structures is their lack of many advanced technologies seemingly necessary for such constructions. HP Compaq HSTNN-FB52 Battery
Lacking draft animals necessary for wheel-based modes of transportation, metal tools and even pulleys, Maya architecture required abundant manpower. Yet, beyond this enormous requirement, the remaining materials seem to have been readily available. All stone for Maya structures appears to have been taken from local quarries. HP Compaq HSTNN-I04C Battery
They most often used limestone which remained pliable enough to be worked with stone tools while being quarried and only hardened once removed from its bed. In addition to the structural use of limestone, much of their mortar consisted of crushed, burnt and mixed limestone that mimicked the properties of cement and was used as widely for stucco finishing as it was for mortar. HP Compaq HSTNN-I12C Battery
Later improvements in quarrying techniques reduced the necessity for this limestone-stucco as the stones began to fit quite perfectly, yet it remained a crucial element in some post and lintel roofs. In the case of the common Maya houses, wooden poles, adobe and thatch were the primary materials; however, instances of what appear to be common houses of limestone have been discovered as well. HP Compaq HSTNN-I39C Battery
Also notable throughout Maya architecture is the corbel arch (also known as a "false arch"), which allowed for more open-aired entrances. The corbelled arch improved upon pier/post and lintel doorways by directing the weight off of the lintel and onto the supporting posts.
Ceremonial platforms were commonly limestone platforms of typically less than four meters in height where public ceremonies and religious rites were performed. HP Compaq HSTNN-I40C Battery
Constructed in the fashion of a typical foundation platform, these were often accented by carved figures, altars and perhaps tzompantli, a stake used to display the heads of victims or defeated Mesoamerican ballgame opponents.
Palaces were large and often highly decorated, and usually sat close to the center of a city and housed the population's elite. HP Compaq HSTNN-I44C Battery
Any exceedingly large royal palace, or one consisting of many chambers on different levels might be referred to as an acropolis. However, often these were one-story and consisted of many small chambers and typically at least one interior courtyard; these structures appear to take into account the needed functionality required of a residence, as well as the decoration required for their inhabitants stature. HP Compaq HSTNN-I44C-A Battery