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ARCHAEOLOGY
MAYAN ARCHITECTURE

ASSOCIATED ELEMENTS

Red handsRED HANDS. Some Maya temples have natural-sized hands painted on the walls, alone or in groups. These designs are known as kab-ul, which means celestial hands, creator and miracle maker. They are attributed to Itzamna, lord of the skies and the king of all of the gods


PhallusPHALLUS. The phallus symbol is associated with human fertility rites and Mother Earth's fecundity. They are not very common, having mostly been found in the Puuc region and in city of Chichen Itza, Mexico. The phallus are stone sculptures placed in the internal walls of temples or on raised external spaces.
   At the La Casa de los Falos (the house of the phallus) in Chichen Itza, the phallus are circumcised, which led some investigators of the past to believe that the Maya were the lost tribe of Israel.


Chac MoolCHAC MOOL. It is believed that the Chac Mools—enigmatic figures in impossible positions (their backs are bent unnaturally)—held some kind of object or offering in their hands. For the most part, the statues have been found in Chichen Itza. They originated in the Toltec culture. The Toltecs, people from the high plains, arrived in the Mundo Maya during the Post-Classic period (A.D. 900-1500).


AltarALTARS. Altars were carved stone monuments associated with stelae and open spaces, as well as with the interior of the temples. They have been found in many different shapes and sizes, often carved with stories, which depict historical and mythological events. In some cases, altars are thought to have served as thrones for the rulers.

STELAE. Stelae are carved stone monuments of in bas relief. They were placed alone or grouped in large, wide plazas in front of the pyramids. Usually the stelae featured the carved figure of a ruler, with hieroglyphs referring to the monarch and his dynasty, and historical dates. The stelae were carved at a predetermined time based on a cycle of years, which has made them a useful tool in determining dates for the history of the archaeological site where they were discovered. Generally the stelae were only carved on one side, though occasionally they were also carved on the lateral sides. There are cases, at sites like Copan, Honduras and Quirigua, Guatemala, where large stelae (reaching up to four meters in height) have been found.

Stele
Izapa, México.
Stele
Xultún, Guatemala.
Stele
Yaxha, Guatemala.
Stele
Naranjo, Guatemala.
Stele
Bonampak, México.
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MURAL PAINTINGS. There are not many Maya temples decorated with murals. The most significant buildings, which have mural paintings are in the cities of Uaxactun, Mulchic, Chichen Itza, Tulum and Bonampak. The murals at Bonampak (illustration below) are considered to be the most refined and of the highest quality.

   Murals were painted in frescoes, using a rich palate of colors, which were made from a mineral and vegetable base, using regional clay and plants. The Maya blue, a color similar to turquoise, stands out for its luminosity.

   Generally, the murals represent episodes of war and of religious ceremonies. The murals also include characters identified as rulers. They are an invaluable source of information about the rituals, outfits and the vast paraphernalia linked to the nobility.

Mural painting


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