The Mayans were noted for elaborate and highly decorated ceremonial architecture, including temple-pyramids, palaces and observatories, all built without metal tools. The Caracol building in Chichén Itza is thought by many to be a Mayan observatory. Many of the windows of the building are positioned to line up with significant lines of sight such as that of the setting sun on the spring equinox of 21 March and also certain lines of sight relating to the moon.
Maya pyramids were made of limestone. These hard-to-climb buildings had temples on top. Mayan V.I.P.s (like priests and rulers) were buried under these temples, basically right inside the pyramids. The first large pyramid built by the Mayans was made between 600 B.C. and 400 B.C.
The Mayan people also used mortar on their construction projects. They made the mortar by burning limestone in a very technical process. They layered the limestone with wood and put a cylinder or pipe up the middle of the stack. Next they burned the pile to make the mortar (Benson 38). To the Mayans the outside appearance of their buildings was much more important than the inside.
Cities, Homes, Temples
All the Maya cities were carefully planned in an East to West orientation and with the major Temples forming a perfect isocceles triangle, as has been documented in the Preclassic Mirador Basin as well as the Classic cities like Tikal, Yaxhá, Nakum, etc.
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.
It is also noted that most of the Maya cities were built by being divided into quarters by two avenues which cross-cut each other at right angles. Roofs were flat and made with cedar beams overlaid with mortar.
The temples were built for religious purposes. For example, the Sun Temple was built to worship the sun god. Inside of these temples, they Mayas preformed all type of ceremonies within two small, stepped, dark rooms inside of this temple.
Some buildings that were built in the Classic Era in the central region have sloped facades above the middle mold level. The Sacred Games played in the Ball Courts had a profound significance for the Maya people. These Ball Courts are found in most of the Maya Ruins of great importance in the Yucatan, but the biggest one is located in Chichen Itza.
The Great Plaza is the most spectacular structure in Tikal and is sur rounded by stelae and sculpted altars, ceremonial buildings, residential and administrative palaces, and a ball court. At each end of the plaza loom the temple of the Great Jaguar and the Temple II.