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How were the ancient Mayan cities How did the Maya decorate buildings? What was the purpose of the buildings we see today?

Visit any Mayan archaeological zone It is an addictive activity and widely recommended. Strolling around and discovering these ancient cities where one of the largest civilizations on the planet developed is something exciting.

Each city has its atmosphere, its personality, its greatness, its details, its location, its history that make it unique and unrepeatable.

El Mirador

How were the old ones Mayan cities

The ancient Mayan cities that today we visit show the buildings without the stucco, the ornaments and the paint that used to beautify them. These buildings were from limestone coated with stucco y decorated with masks, crests, stone reliefs ... and the color usually predominated Red.

Many Interior walls of the rooms and temples were decorated using colors like the blue, yellow, green or red that they managed to extract from vegetable substances. Can you imagine those wonderful illustrated walls? Beauty creates addiction.

Explore the best pyramids of Mexico of ancient maya

Recreation city of Tikal in the Classic Maya (200 aC - 900 dC). Source
Recreation city of Tikal. Font
Bonampak archaeological site, Chiapas
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Recreation of the ancient Mayan city of Tikal. Font
Archeological site Tikal, Guatemala.
Tikal, Guatemala

The reconstructed buildings we see today were ceremonial centers, housing complexes or buildings for political use where the rulers developed the different daily activities.

The great bulk of the Mayan population he lived in the surroundings in modest houses made of wood and roofed with guano. Today, only the sturdiest and strongest buildings remain, as would happen with any city that suffered devastation due to a hurricane, earthquake, tornado or abandonment of the place.

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The inhabitants lived around the centers of power and ceremonials. Font

It is difficult for the visitor not versed in the Mayan civilization to imagine how were cities like Palenque o Tikal, as these recreations show.

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Recreation of Palenque in the Classic Maya (200 aC - 900 dC)
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Recreation of Tikal in the Classic Maya (200 aC - 900 dC).

Restoration work of the ancient Mayan cities:

In this series of photos we see part of the restoration process of the Pyramid of Kukulcán de Chichén Itzá made by the INAH (National Institute of Anthropology and History), authority that manages the heritage of Mexico.

The first image is a drawing of Catherwood that belongs to his book Views of Ancient Monuments in Central America, Chiapas and Yucatan (1844). It gives us an idea of ​​how the first explorers found these vestiges, which had been abandoned for hundreds of years.

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Frederick Catherwood Art Print Kukulcán Pyramid of Chichén Itzá S.XIX. Font
Chichen Itza reconstruction
Reconstruction of the Kukulcán Pyramid of Chichén Itzá, Yucatán. Mexico
Chichen Itza reconstruction

Kukulcan Pyramid of Chichén Itzá restored

Despite the large and successful restoration work by the INAH, which allow us to appreciate with greater sense these ancient Mayan cities, I think that is not sufficient so that the uncultivated visitor can properly evaluate and imagine what the cities of the ancient Maya were like.

Where to see the Mayan pieces of the ancient cities?

Most the original Mayan pieces (stelae, pottery, vessels, sculptures, incense burners, altars ...) are not found in the vestiges to preserve them from the corrosive weather and have them guarded and conserved in museums. We see the Mayan cities stripped of their ornaments and colors.

Uxmal, Yucatan

Here a thorny question opens: Where is most of the Mayan heritage? such as vessels, codices, steles, prints, ceramics, panels? most of Mayan art pieces are in museums from Mexico and museums from foreign countries such as the United States, Spain, United Kingdom, Germany, some with exquisite collections of Mayan art.

Colonists and explorers did their business in these lands. Unfortunately there are also many pieces looted in private collections.

Mayan Peabody Museum

Could visits to Mayan archeological sites be improved?

I do not know if the competent authorities can or can not improve the places to make them more attractive, if there is money, if they generate enough; I do not have that information. In my case I end up thinking that there is little effort or imagination on the part of INAH, and other qualified entities. I miss a greater affection that is able to bring more light to the traveler who travels these fantastic Mayan vestiges.

Sayil Archaeological Zone, Puuc Route, Yucatan
Brief explanation written in Mayan Yucatec, Spanish and English of the Palace of Sayil, Yucatan.

Most Mayan archaeological zones they lack a museum, as well as complete and attractive explanations in the course of the enclosures. Site Museums where to observe the findings of the place you find them in Dzibilchaltún, Palenque, Tonina and few more.

Archaeological zone Palenque, Chiapas
Palenque Site Museum Alberto Ruz Lhuillier,

I imagine arriving for example at the Temple of the Masks of Kohunlich and being able to appreciate a detailed model of the temple as it was in the time of the ancient Maya. So we would see the wonderful colors, stuccos and beauty of ancient Mayan cities.

Kohunlich masks
Masks of Kohunlich. Right original, left representation exposed in the Great Mayan Museum of Merida

Original pieces in the Mayan vestiges

In most Mayan vestiges remain pieces original as reliefs, sculptures, glyphs, ornaments, paintings or wakes between the walls of the stones. There is always a story to explain or some Remarkable Find From which to learn something else, wonderful details that easily escape.

I would love you to explain what the stelae tell us, that would translate the glyphs in the enclosures to know what they narrate in them or that there were colored drawings of the steles to appreciate them in their originality.

Due to this lack of information there is on-site I feel that we can not appreciate more accurately the exquisiteness of Mayan art and understand the way of life of ancient Maya.

Archaeological zone Yaxchilan, Chiapas
Estela in Yaxchilán, Chiapas, one of the vestiges with more original pieces
Bonampak archeological zone, Chiapas
Estela de Bonampak, Chiapas.
Archeological site Calakmul, Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico.
relief in Calakmul, Campeche
Masked stucco in Becán, Campeche.
Mask coated in Becan, Campeche.
Hands in the Temple of the Paintings of Tulum.
Hands and remains of paint in the Temple of the Paintings of Jumpsuit.
Palenque archaeological site, Chiapas
Temple of the inscriptions seen from the Palace, Palenque
Temple inscriptions Palenque. The tombs inside
Temple inscriptions Palenque, Pakal's tomb. Font
Palenque archaeological site, Chiapas
Palenque Alberto Ruz Lhuillier Site Museum, Palenque Archaeological Zone, Chiapas

It would be great to give the best effort to have in the archaeological zones useful and attractive information to help us imagine how were the ancient Mayan cities, that the visitor can see through the peephole of time what he can not see due to lack of knowledge. Catch it, do it live the Mayan civilization more closely.

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Ruppert & Denison, Anthill, 1943. Campeche, Mexico. Font
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Frederick Caterwood Uxmal S.XIX Art Print. Font
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Recreation of the construction of El Mirador, Guatemala
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Mayan ceremony recreation. Font
Representative model of a market
Representative model of a market, National Museum of Anthropology of Mexico City

When you estimate and value something so much, what you want is for visitors to these Mayan lands, whether local or foreign, to fully enjoy the road.

To learn about the Mayan civilization is to do it about our human ancestors, it is to know about our footprints on the Planet. Have we changed a lot? I better not philosophize.

Good way,

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