Mesoamerica had three major time periods: preclassic (2000 BC-AD 300), classic (300-900), and postclassic (900-1500). During the six centuries of the classic period the Mayan civilization flourished first in the forests of the Peten in Guatemala and adjacent areas--creating such cities as Tikal, Uaxactun, Quirigua, Copan, and Palenque--and then in the semiarid scrublands of northern Yucatan--constructing such pilgrimage centers as Uxmal, Kabah, Sayil, Labna, Etzna, Old Chichen, and Coba.
The post classic period in Yucatan was marked by the invasion of the Toltecs from Central Mexico and the establishment of their control at Chichen Itza (987-1200). Later the coastal trading town of Tulum grew in significance following the decline of military leagues led by Mayapan. Pyramids and temples were built in more than 40 cities, each with a population of about 20,000 people. The Spanish conquest by Francisco de Montejo, whose house still stands on the central plaza in the capital of Merida, completed the downfall of the Mayan civilization in 1542.
Today more than 2 million Mayan Indians live in northern Yucatan and highland Guatemala in a style similar to that of the common people among their ancestors. Excavations at Dzibilchaltun near Merida revealed house sites from 1000 BC that resemble today's huts in rural regions. The same style of construction--wattle-and-daub walls in an oval shape with a thatched roof of palmetto fronds and little furniture--serves the native Maya, who continue to resist racial mixing and the dilution of their culture.
The design of the native house from antiquity is reproduced in stone as a decorative art motif in the Puuc style at such sites as Uxmal and Labna (800- 1000). The Puuc style, named for a region of low limestone hills in northern Yucatan, is characterized by an unadorned lower level that contrasts sharply with an elaborately sculptured upper level. Examples are the Nunnery Quadrangle and the governor's palace. It is possible that the stone columns, or cylinders, also featured in this art style represent posts and wickerwork of the daub-and-wattle native huts.
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MAYA, A History of The Mayans