Art depicts the culture and lifestyle of a people. Mayan art is not different. This art tells the story of the Mayan people and of their interaction with neighboring nations. It comes in different forms such as molded terra cotta figurines, clay and stucco models, stone and wood carvings as well as paper and plaster painting and delineation. Metal working was also an integral part of Mayan art, but this focused more on making of ornaments due to scarcity of necessary resources.
A great number of popular Mayan arts, architecture and inscriptions were self-commissioned by Mayan kings as a way of immortalizing themselves in the annals of their people. The main focus of the art among the olden people was the very powerful men and women that impacted on the society, rather than some anonymous deities and priests.
There are several structures testifying to the advancement of Mayan art today. One of such is the hieroglyphic stairway at Copan, which is a good testament of the artistic prowess and efficiency of the ancient people. Aside the central stairway, this iconographical complex also features figures, ramps and statues -- all of which depict numerous elements of the Mayan society. There are also pictorial representations of an altar, local gods and sacrifice. Of particular interest among all the imagery featured in this famous monument is the record of Mayan royal descent, which is presented in different statues and the hieroglyphs.
A person of high rank, with possible accession to kingship, is represented by a seated-captive figurine. In the Mayan society, such a figurine portrays someone about to take part in a bloodletting ceremony or rite, as the rope collar shows that the person is involved in such a ceremony. The well-woven hip cloth and expensive earrings the figure puts on indicate someone of high rank. The genitals of someone about to take part in a bloodletting ceremony are exposed.
The main staple food of the ancient Mayan people was corn, just as is the case with their Indian descendants. While most people in Indian communities now speak Spanish, Mayan dialects such as Kekchi, Cakchiquel, Qhuche and Mam are still being spoken till this day. Clothing in this communities remains as it was in ancient times. By looking at embroidery style, design, shape and color, someone with knowledge of this type of clothing can easily tell the particular village where it was made.