Mayan architecture has a sizeable and impressive length of history behind it, just like those of the ancient Romans and Greeks. But it is particularly renowned for pyramids dating back to the Terminal Pre-classic Period and earlier. As would be expected of traditional Mesoamerican style of architecture, these stepped pyramids followed complex patterns with carved stones used to form a stair-step design. The pyramids were dedicated to different deities, the shrine of which can be found at the summit of individual pyramid.
Many political, commercial and religious centers of the ancient Mayans were transformed into big, popular cities in the heydays of Mayan civilization. Chichen Itza, Uxmal and Tikal are three of such cities. The relics of olden Mayan architecture have been helpful in having a better understanding of ancient civilization through the observation of many consistent elements and diverse styles.
The practice of artists adding their names to works done by them is not new in this area. It has been done since ancient times in this society. Careful study of ancient scripts has revealed that the Mayans were part of few olden civilizations. The myriad of media expressions and complex patterns of Mayan art have lent to its description as the richest in the New World, or the Americas. In Mayan architecture, limestone buildings covered with lime stucco were common. Roof combs in stucco and stone and carved friezes were used to embellish buildings. Production of cement and plaster was easy, as limestone and flint were available in massive quantities. The availability of these materials made it possible for the Mayans to construct magnificent temples and the large pyramids with steps. The ancient Mayan architects applied the corbel vault principle in the construction of these impressive edifices, as evidence suggested.
Murals with brilliant colors were another feature of Mayan architecture. Walls were adorned with ancient gods and many other mythological additions. It has also been noted that many Mayan cities were set up with quarters formed by two avenues bisecting each other at right angles. Cedar beams with mortar overlay were used to fashion flat roofs for structures. The ancient Mayans built tombs into or underneath buildings. New temples were also often constructed over existing structures.
The Mayans were not lacking in artistic expressions. Diverse forms were used in the making of ceramics, which were embellished with elaborate scenery. Bone and shell as well as flint were used to make art works. Metal was used to fashion ceremonial ornaments such as headdresses, bracelets and necklaces. Cotton textiles with decoration were also produced. Stone tablets and stelae were used to record significant events in the lives of the ancient Mayans such as the completion of the twenty-year cycle of Katun, capture of royal victims or their sacrifice, and accessions.
One unique and impressive thing about the ancient Mayan people was that they were able to put together the different architectural masterpieces without the use of beasts of burden or metal tools. The magnificent pyramids with temples, observatories, palaces and many other grand structures were constructed without using any metal implement. The construction of these structures in a landscape featuring a jungle was equally impressive.