The Mayans were famously known for their architectural works which ranged from small huts, to large houses, to beautiful, elaborate temples.
Ancient Mayan Shelter-Construction
The Mayans most commonly lived in Adobe houses with thatched roofs. It might have taken a long time to build and they had to have built it slowly. Also, the Mayan village of Ceren in Central America, covered in volcanic ash about 1400 years ago, was discovered in 1976 and its continuing excavation fed archaeologists with information on many details of the Mayan way of life.
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.
Ancient Mayan Shelter-Design
In the beginning, Maya houses were built on low platforms that delineated the space of nuclear family plots, including family cemeteries. Usually these solaris (lots) were delineated byalbarradas (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 houses were rectangular single rooms with rounded corners having no windows. 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.
Ancient Mayan Shelter-Structure
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. Very rarely did a Mayan house had a wooden flooring.
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.
Illiterate Maya people recorded their history by burying their domestic universe under their floors. Analysis of objects and human remains embedded beneath these ordinary Maya houses from the Classic period (250-900 A.D.) revealed that farmers and servants cached objects and buried relatives within their residences.
Occupied from about 450 to 1150 A.D., the two homes revealed about a dozen human remains of men, women and children with artifacts arranged around and on top of the bodies. Indeed, burial in the home was a major event.
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