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Mayan Pyramid

The Mayan Pyramid is one of the outstanding features of the Maya, who lived in Belize, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, southern Mexico, and the Yucatan Peninsula. The Maya built these Pyramid Temples starting about 3,000 years ago. Read on to learn more about the Mayan pyramids and the people who built them.

Mayan Pyramid

Mayan Pyramids

At first, the Mayan pyramids were simple structures that were burial mounds. Over time, these mounds became the magnificent stepped pyramids we marvel at today. The two types of pyramids built by the Mayas are those meant to be climbed and those that were not. Stepped pyramids had a temple at the top and were the sites of religious rituals. The second kind was considered sacred and these were not even supposed to be touched. One interesting fact about these was that they were very steep and sometimes had doorways that led nowhere.

When it was time for a ceremony, a king or priest would climb up the pyramid, which was symbolic of man's ascent to the heavens. Along the way, he would sometimes stop for a certain ritual, which sometimes included an animal sacrifice. To the Mayans, the temples represented caves that led to the underworld and the doorways represented the mouths of monsters. Hence, they decorated temples and doorways accordingly.

It is not known how the Mayans, who had no metal tools but only axes and tools of stone, could have built these pyramids. It is believed they had no pulleys either, which would have helped a lot. As with the Egyptians, there are many mysteries still to unravel.

The Mayans also built smaller pyramid-like structures as burial places for their rulers. Some historians think many pyramids were built especially high in order to serve as landmarks when navigating through the jungle. Of course, being so high, they would remind the people that the gods were present. Some people think the tall pyramids were also used as observatories.

Locations of Pyramids

Chichen Itza in Mexico is home to some of the more famous pyramids built by the Mayans. One particularly large pyramid is the El Castillo pyramid, which has a jaguar throne and elaborate decorations. The largest Mayan city is Tikal, Guatemala, and it has many pyramids.

The most beautiful Mayan city is Uxmal, Mexico. There resides the Pyramid of the Magician, which is unique because of its oval base. Most pyramids have a square or rectangular base. The Great Pyramid of Cholula is another famous pyramid and it is quite large at 181 feet high with its base measuring 400 meters on each side. Another pyramid in Guatemala, the Dante Pyramid, is taller, measuring 230 feet high.

The Rise and Fall of the Mayans

The Mayans lived in Central America and Mexico for at least 3,000 years, with the height of their civilization occurring between 250 and 900 AD. During this time, they built elaborate cities, developed writing, and wrote thousands of books, most of which were destroyed by the Spanish. The arts flourished during this time as well as the sciences. They made calendars, charted the stars, and made strides in farming with methods like terracing, irrigation, and raised fields.

Today, historians don't know what the reason or reasons were, but the Mayan civilization began to decline during the 8th and 9th centuries. This is known because construction of stelae stopped abruptly. Stelae are pieces of stone that had information carved on them, indicating the Mayans were very good record keepers. Possible reasons for the decline include war, disease, drought and famine, overpopulation, natural disasters, and climate change. One thing historians do know about was the spread of smallpox and other diseases by the Spanish in the 16th and 17th centuries, which decimated the Mayan population. The Spanish conquest of the Mayans ended in 1697 but their decline had been going on for some time.