When were the Mayan ruins built
Mayan pryamids are steeped in rituals and mythology. (Photo: mayan ruins image by Mike & Valerie Miller from Fotolia.com )
Mayan pyramids were built by the Mayan people who lived in southern Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and Belize. The pyramids, which were built starting nearly 3, 000 years ago, are perhaps the greatest tourist attractions of Mexico and Central America. Two types of pyramids were constructed: one for sacrificial rituals and the second for sacred ceremonies. Many Mayan pyramids also rose above the jungle to serve as landmarks for the populace.
The Teotihuacan civilization created the most magnificent pyramids of Mesoamerica from about 300 B.C. to 500 A.D. Sites of pyramids throughout the region also include Altun Ha, Calakmul Caracol, Comalcalco, Coba, Chichen Itza, El Mirador, La Danta, El Tigre, Los Monos, Lamanai, Palenque, Tikal, Tulum and Uxmal.
The complicated design of the Mayan pyramids of Teotihuacan features avenues, plazas and 600 pyramids amid a sacred landscaped complex man-made mountains and foothills. The greatest pyramid in the complex is the Pyramid of the Sun, which was built on top of a natural cave containing four chambers. The cave was discovered in 1971 and contained remains of ritual offerings.
Some pyramids feature an inner layer of mica imported from Brazil 2, 000 miles away without the benefit of wheeled transportation. It’s believed the mica acted as insulation. Other Mayan pyramids were covered with stucco that left unattended would turn to mud. Once the pyramids were abandoned, the pyramids revered to mud with plants and trees sprouting from the mounds.
Ceremonial buildings began to appear in about 100 B.C., with the 650-square-foot Pyramid of the Sun standing 210 feet high and made of adobe mud and stone. Its temple constructed of wood at the summit of the edifice. The summit offered a stunning view of the city of Teotihuacan below.
Many pyramids featured elaborate decorative murals, including the Teotihuacan Spider Woman, a goddess believed by the Mayans to have created the universe. The Spider Woman is a deity closely related to the Spider Grandmother, who is prominent in Navajo and Pueblo mythology.
At the Mayan pyramid of Kukulkan at Chichen Itza, ball courts were erected. The largest was the Great Ballcourt of Chichen Itza that measures 545 feet long and 225 feet wide. The ends of the court have raised "temple" areas that enhanced the acoustics and allowed voices to be heard at either end of the court. The acoustics of the ball court is similar to an open-air amphitheatre, although archaeologists have been unable to discern the technology used to make it work.
The coastal Tulum site in the Yucatan is partially surrounded by a three-sided, 16-foot thick wall containing five gates. The site features a city square or plaza where shopkeepers and artisans plied their trade. The site was named Tulum, which means “descending god” or “diving god.” Its most significant structure is El Castillo, or The Castle, which served as a landmark for approaching sailors. In front of The Castle is the Temple of the Frescoes, which was an observatory to track the sun.