The Mayan pyramids in Mexico, scattered throughout the Yucatan, stand as towering testaments to a bygone era. Over two millennia have passed since the Mayans built these grandiose structures from stone.
Rising above the lush landscapes, these pyramids capture the imagination with their enduring beauty. The Mayan ruins stand as a testament to the remarkable craftsmanship and ingenuity of the ancient civilization.
Pyramids were built using intricate Mayan building techniques, and adorned with mystic Mayan architectural symbols. Each stone and carving is evidence of a rich culture that still captivates the world.
Each step up the weathered stone steps is a journey through time. Pyramids were not merely places of worship but symbols of a culture deeply connected to the rhythms of the natural world and the cosmos.
The Mayan architecture is an artistic expression of the Mayan culture. The Mayan architecture style is one of the most awesome features of Mayan art to admire on your travel to any area of the Mayan world.
Even after over 2000 years, the magnificence of Mayan architecture and artistic skills are still present in all the Mayan pyramids and pyramid-like structures scattered throughout the Yucatan and Chiapas.
The remarkable achievements of ancient Mayan architecture are evident in every structure found not just in Mexico but also throughout the Mayan habitat area, which includes Guatemala, Belize, and Honduras.
Some of the Mayan archaeological sites have become World Heritage sites such as Chichen Itza, Uxmal, Palenque, Calakmul (all in Mexico), Tikal in Guatemala, Caracol in Belize, and Copan in Honduras, and more.
The ancient Mayans were extraordinary architects, engineers, and designers. They had a knowledge of astronomy, mathematics, and geometry. The Mayans knew how to calculate curves to build the famous Mayan Arch and the vaulted chambers.
The ancient Mayans did not have any metal tools, and they carved hard stones into chisels and hammers in different sizes and forms. They did not count on animals for transportation and did not use the wheel.
Mayan architectural styles in Yucatan
In the Yucatan Peninsula, Mayan architecture acquired different styles due to the interactive Mayan trade and the cultural interchange among the neighboring states of Yucatan, Quintana Roo, and Campeche.
The main styles in Mayan architecture in Yucatan:
- Maya-Toltec style architecture
- Puuc architectural style
- Peten architectural style
- Rio Bek architectural style
- Chenes architectural style
This architectural style is a manifestation of the amazing knowledge and achievements of the ancient Mayans, as well as of the spirituality embodied in every part of the structures, which they achieved years ago.
The Maya-Toltec style features an inclination at the base of the structures and a large row of columns, large human figures carved in stone with glyphs, and huge heads of plumed serpents, jaguars, eagles, and skulls.
There are also carved idols with their bodies turned sideways and their heads turned forward, holding a bowl called Chak Mols on their knees, as the famous Chak Mol figure in the Northern Group in Chichen Itza.
The Puuc style features lavishly decorated facades with high reliefs and stone carvings of the Mayan god Chaac. Examples of this style can mainly be seen in the archaeological sites of Uxmal (80 km from Merida).
The Puuc style is also present in Kabah, Labna, Sayil, and Xlapak, which are the Mayan sites included in the Puuc Route tour, as well as in Oxkintok, an amazing “off-the-beaten-path” archaeological site in this area.
This style can also be found in the Old Chichen area of Chichen Itza.
The Peten style is a characteristic of the Mayan architecture influence that came from the Guatemala region. The Peten style can be found in archaeological sites like Tikal with its towering and majestous pyramids.
Peten style has extraordinarily high pyramid-like structures with steep walls and steep staircases, false facades, and tall crests atop the upper chambers of the Mayan pyramids as an additional decorative motive.
The Peten style was developed during the Classic period between 625 and 800 AD. The influence of the Peten style can be found in Mayan structures in the Mexican states of Yucatan, Quintana Roo, and Campeche.
The Peten style can be found in the House of the Doves (Uxmal), the Godzpop, and the Palace buildings (in Kabah), and also in the Red House (“Casa Colorada”) with crest and false façade (in the Chichen Itza site).
Additionally, in the state of Quintana Roo, evidence of the Petén architectural style can be found in the form of steep walls and staircases, clearly visible in archaeological sites such as Coba, Cohunlich, and Muyil.
This style has a long rectangular foundation with two massive round towers atop the main structures without any special function, as well as nonfunctional staircases on Mayan temples, pyramids, and structures.
The Rio Bek architectural style appeared during the Classic Period around 700 AD and continued till the Late Post-Classic Period about 1200 AD. Evidence of this style can be seen in these archaeological sites:
- Rio Bec
Xpujil is an exception, as it is the only Mayan pyramid that has 3 towers.
The Rio Bek style is also seen in some of the structures in Kohunlich.
The Chenes is a characteristic style of the Campeche State.
This style features heavily decorated facades in high reliefs with mythological creatures, masks of the god of rain Chaac, and the Mayan god Itzamna with open fauces as entrance doors of important Mayan pyramids.
The evidence of the Chenes style can be seen in Mayan pyramids, temples, and structures in the state of Campeche in the archaeological sites of Santa Rosa Xtampak, Hochob, and Dzibilnocac, not far from Campeche City.
Another evidence of the Chenes architectural style can be also seen in the east side structure of the Temple of the Magician (in Uxmal), and the east façade of the Nunnery in the Chichen Itza archaeological site.
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