The Maya created pyramids, temples, palaces, fortifications, and dwellings, among other things. They frequently adorned their structures with beautiful stone carvings, stucco figures, and paint. The best-known examples of Maya art are found on buildings constructed of stone masonry because this material is easy to work with and durable over time. However, wood and plaster also played important roles in building projects.
Maya architecture evolved over a long period of time. They did not build every structure described in books about ancient civilizations. Some sites show that they modified existing structures or built new ones instead. The decoration of these structures was also changing over time. Early structures had only simple designs but later artists began to use more complex ideas. For example, some regions of Yucatán have plates with central circles or crosses inside them. These decorations make each plate unique even though they were probably made by using the same cutting tool.
The most famous decorating technique used by the Maya was painting. They used bright colors and intricate designs to create an illusion of three dimensions. Some structures have been completely covered in paintings while others have original materials underneath the paint.
Pyramids were often the center of large cities during the Maya era. Many have questions about what happened to the people who lived in these cities.
In their city centers, the Maya erected magnificent temples, palaces, and pyramids. These were frequently massive stone constructions, which were often topped with timber structures and thatched roofs. The city center served as both the physical and spiritual focus of the city. As part of their religion, they believed that certain places on Earth were connected by a network of caves and tunnels, known as "kiva". In these sacred places, they built small shrines called "talud-tablero" where priests could perform rituals to keep the city safe from harm and provide guidance for their people.
Other notable buildings include residential areas, marketplaces, ball courts, and roads. Although most buildings were made of wood, some cities such as Tikal and Palenque were also home to many large stone structures.
The Maya constructed their great cities across central and southern Mexico between 300 and 1500 AD. They are considered one of the first civilizations in North America. The Mayan culture lasted for approximately 500 years before being replaced by the Spanish.
Many city-states constructed massive palaces, pyramids, and other public structures that are still standing today. To honor their gods and to memorialize their monarchs, the structures were adorned in carvings and statues. The Maya are arguably best known for their magnificent pyramids. They constructed two types of pyramids. One type is called a "stepped pyramid", which means that each successive level was offset from the previous one by an amount equal to one-half its height. For example, if the first level base is 10 feet wide and the second level base is 9 feet wide, then the third level base would be 8 feet wide. The fourth level would have a base width of 7 feet 2 inches, and so on. The other type of Maya pyramid is called a "uniform pyramid". These pyramids usually have a single slope, or grade, as they rise from their bases toward the top.
The Maya developed a sophisticated mathematics used for calculating the size of buildings, using numbers instead of words or drawings to represent quantities. For example, one number might be used to calculate the area of a square yard. Then, another number would be added to that number to arrive at the area of a rectangular foot. From there, it's easy to work out how many feet high you can make a wall without measuring it! The Maya also invented zero as we know it today, although they didn't use the word "zero". Instead, they had several terms that meant exactly the same thing.
Although temples were the most imposing constructions within a Maya city, palaces made up the majority of construction at a Maya site: single-story structures built like temple-pyramids but on considerably lower platforms and with as many as several dozen plastered chambers. Palaces usually had flat roofs covered with clay or gravel and sometimes included large open courtyards.
The word "palace" is used today to describe any large public building, but this was not how the Maya used it. They reserved that term for only the most magnificent structures, which were often surrounded by water. Other names the Maya gave their palaces include "sun and moon", "place where life is displayed", "the place where decisions are made", and even "the house of the gods".
They were also called "books of history" because ancient texts have been found carved onto the walls of some palaces. These books recorded the important events that took place during the reign of a king or queen. Sometimes there are short poems or songs written within the books as well.
Finally, the palace was called a "temple without idols" because there were no images of people carved into the walls like in many other temples. Instead, the walls of a palace room contained pictures, carvings, or both of plants and animals.