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The Mayan Civilisation

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City covered by the forest
City covered by the forest (bigger).
© Joe Miller photography


     When you say Mayas, you see the temples, the pyramids and those cities literaly covered by the tropical forest, sometimes ruined by the climate and the years.


     Initially, the buildings were build with rocks and wood. Resistant wood to termits were prefered. Different materia were added for filling the previous elements (sandstone, marble, limestone,...). As an example, the steps were covered with parget. Initially, the rocks, used to erect the walls and the buildings, were set lengthwise to use the maximum of the superficy of the slab. Then, at the preclassic era, rocks were used largewise. But this different method needed more ressources. A piece of the tropical forest
A piece of the tropical forest

Temples were build following a very precise plan. For example, a pyramid was composed with four access stairs, like this one. Each stairs has a precise number of steps : 91 (+1 at the entrance of the temple).
So : (4 x 91) + 1 = 365, like the 365 days of a year.
     What built the Mayans ? Palaces, pyramids, (some like the highest in the world) places (for games and ceremonies), steam bathes (temazcal) and defense walls, specially when the empire started going down, and the cities begun fighting to each other.
Temples took place, among others, at the top of the pyramids. Preachers (but those who participated in the different rites too) climbed the steps before accessing the temple. Astronomy was a disciplin very well developed. The main elements in each town, were build looking at the cartography of the sky, and in the alignment of the sun.

     Beautifully multicolored with patterns, decorations represent the historyy of the civilization (gods, seasonal events, rituals, battles and victories) but the name of the highest ranks. When the mayan civilization declined, the genealogic trees were written to give more importance to the dominant authority. However, even today, it is difficult to decrypt the glyphs. Among the most famous cities for its architecture and building, we can name Palenque, Tikal or Copan. The Copàn King (Honduras)
The Copàn King (Honduras)

Pyramid of Tikal (Guatemala)
Pyramid of Tikal, in the Petén (Guatemala)
     N.B. : you can see the nine levels in the pyramid. They symbolize the nine levels from the underground, as they are described in the mayan rituals. The architecture reproduces the extension of Nature and the world order.