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Rachel Kanczes
Mrs. Horvath
AP World History- 3
27 November 2015
Mayan Architecture
In Maya and everywhere else in Mesoamerica, architecture helped define a city. Maya is
famous for its many different types of architecture. It had to meet the standards of geographical
and climate conditions but also had to have aspects of culture infused. The Mayans mastered this
and were able to make architecture a diverse display of a citys cultural and artistic ideas.
Mayans were able to build pyramids that came in a vast scale going from broad to narrow and
from tall to short. They also built temples to serve as shrines or houses of worship. Mayans also
mastered the building of arches. They also constructed ball courts that had an entertainment and
religious significance. I believe that architecture represents Mayan culture because they
constructed pyramids, temples, arches, and ball courts.
Mayans created pyramids that had a vast scale of size and structure materials. Tikals
pyramids are higher than other pyramids but not as big in width. However, Tikals pyramids
were very narrow. Most tall and narrow pyramids in Maya had very steep stairways. Mayan
pyramids always made the viewers eye look upward. The pyramids are decorated with masks or
aspects of Maya culture made from a plaster like substance called stucco. That is why Maya
pyramids were significant to the representation of Mayan culture. Mayans also constructed
temples to allow people to have somewhere to worship.
Mayans created temples to serve as shrines or houses of worship. These temples were
often built on top of pyramids and were built to stand up to the weather conditions and the

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passage of time. Mayans used certain building materials to ensure that the temples would be of
good quality. A very common material/mixture was lime-and-sand mortar and was usually
combined with thick walls and vaults to make the temple stay up for as long as possible.
Temples usually had roof combs that were decorated or latticed. Some had hieroglyphics or
murals and others had religious symbols made from stucco. That is why Maya temples were
significant to the representation of Mayan culture. Mayans also constructed arches in their cities.
Mayans also created arches that were either connected with vaults or were freestanding.
Arches could be made out of different materials and varied in design. For example, in
Usumacinta arches had thin slabs of stone in them, in Comalcalco they used bricks, and in
Yucatan they made arches out of a mixture of lime, cement, and stone. When constructed with a
vault, the walls were sloped inward until a stone connected them and then the walls were filled
with concrete. Freestanding arches were made over wooden frames which were later removed to
allow them the dry in their form. That is why Maya arches were significant to the representation
of Mayan culture. Finally, Mayans constructed ball courts which had religious and entertainment
significance.
In Maya, cities usually only had one ball court, but some had three. Ball courts were a
recreational activity all over Maya, but also had a religious significance. A ball court allowed
players to reenact the actions of the Hero Twins who defeated the lords of Xibalba on the
Underworld ball court. Mayan creation stories say that the maize god was buried in the
underworld and the god resurrected from a crevice in the Earth. In Maya, ball courts were
usually I-shaped with only two high walls that had sloping benches. The object of the ball game
was to get a rubber ball through a ring that was high up by only using your hips and shoulders.
The courts had terraces so people could watch the game take place. Later in time, they began to

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build ball courts with four walls instead of two. That is why Maya ball courts were significant to
the representation of Mayan culture.
In conclusion, I believe that architecture represents Mayan culture because they
constructed pyramids, temples, arches, and ball courts that helped influence and guide other
cultures in the future. Mayan pyramids inspired other cultures with their wide variety of sizes
and designs. Their construction of temples shows how they were able to create structures that
could stand up to weather and the passage of time. Their construction of arches shows how they
were able to approach a difficult design to build so ingenuously. The creation of ball courts
allowed a recreational activity to have religious significance. These four different types of
architecture allowed the Maya culture to be transformed and shown in a new way. Maya culture
was shaped by architecture and helped inspire future cultures.

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Works Consulted
Bunson, Margaret R., and Stephen M. Bunson. Architecture, Maya. Encyclopedia of Ancient
Mesoamerica. Facts on File, 1996. Ancient and Medieval History Online. Web. 20 Nov.
2015.
Bunson, Margaret R., and Stephen M. Bunson. Dress and Appearance, Maya. Encyclopedia of
Ancient Mesoamerica. Facts on File, 1996. Ancient and Medieval History Online. Web.
20 Nov. 2015.
Bunson, Margaret R., and Stephen M. Bunson. Literature, Maya. Encyclopedia of Ancient
Mesoamerica. Facts on File, 1996. Ancient and Medieval History Online. Web. 20 Nov.
2015.
Bunson, Margaret R., and Stephen M. Bunson. Mathematics, Maya. Encyclopedia of Ancient
Mesoamerica. Facts on File, 1996. Ancient and Medieval History Online. Web. 25 Nov.
2015.
Bunson, Margaret R., and Stephen M. Bunson. Religion, Maya. Encyclopedia of Ancient
Mesoamerica. Facts on File, 1996. Ancient and Medieval History Online. Web. 20 Nov.
2015.
Bunson, Margaret R., and Stephen M. Bunson. Rulers and Other Important Figures, Maya.
Encyclopedia of Ancient Mesoamerica. Facts on File, 1996. Ancient and Medieval
History Online. Web. 20 Nov. 2015.
Crain, David A. Maya Build Astronomical Observatory at Palenque. Great Events from
History: The Middle Ages, 447-1453. Ed. Brian A. Pavlac. Hackensack: Salem, 2004.
Salem Online. Web. 20 Nov. 2015.

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Foster, Lynn V. Ball Games, Maya. Handbook to Life in the Ancient Maya World. Facts on
File, 2001. Ancient and Medieval History Online. Web. 20 Nov. 2015.
Foster, Lynn V. Dance, Maya. Handbook to Life in the Ancient Maya World. Facts on File,
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Foster, Lynn V. Household, Maya. Handbook to Life in the Ancient Maya World. Facts on File,
2001. Ancient and Medieval History Online. Web. 20 Nov. 2015.
Mayan Civilization. Gale Encyclopedia of World History; Governments. Vol. 1. Detroit: Gale,
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Sharer, Robert J. Family Life in Mesoamerica and South America before 1500. Daily Life
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