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THE TRADITIONAL HOUSE
Pre-Hispanic Maya houses were made of perishable organic materials, this being the main reason why no intact examples still exist. Most researchers believe that they were much like the rural houses made today. Since 16th-century Spanish conquerors were mainly interested in the meaning and social power of the more symbolic religious and civic buildings, they paid little attention to the habitats of the common people.
Originally, Maya houses were built on low platforms that delineated the space of nuclear family plots, including family cemeteries. Usually these solaris (lots) were delineated by albarradas (low walls made of narrowly stacked stone). Each family's lot included their hut, a well, a latrine, a chicken coup, a garden and a rustic-roofed batea (laundry room).
The house was one rectangular room with rounded corners, no windows, and one central door built to face east. Sometimes there was another door that led to a second hut, used as both a kitchen and a chicken coup. In the traditional kitchens, women would cook on a grill set over three rocks. When the hammocks were hung, the main, single-room house was converted into a dormitory.
The floor in a Maya home was made of sascab, a foundation of gravel covered with white packed soil. The walls had a wood matrix that was covered with adobe, and then whitened with lime. Occasionally a house would have wooden baseboards.
Today, the family homes are commonly called palapas, the Maya word for roof. The roof itself is made of shorn wood, which is tied together to form beams. The beams are then thatched with native palm fronds. The Maya had no nails, so all of the joints in the home were tied together with a supple, tropical vine called a liana.
Aside from these technical characteristics are many ancient customs that are linked to Maya homes. One such example is marriage: when two young sweethearts decide to wed, the entire community usually joins together to build their new home.
REPRESENTATIONS OF HOUSES
Here are various examples in which the ancient Maya depicted their homes.
ANATOMY OF THE MODERN MAYAN HOUSE
In this illustration of a Maya house, the components are identified by their Maya names. An interesting fact is that the beelcho (central pole), literally means, 'the mouse path'. The suffix che, means tree.