Exploring the Ancient Maya Art of House-Building
The Mayas have always enjoyed a spiritual connection with nature and their environment, which is demonstrated by the way they build their houses.
The Maya culture and civilization are still alive and thriving today. That’s why today’s Mayas still build their houses using ancient techniques that were developed and perfected thousands of years ago.
This ancient culture has always managed to strike a balance between innovation, technology and living in harmony with the environment. In many ways, a traditional house built by Mayas is a metaphor for their approach to sustainability and nature.
Sustainable Housing from the Gods
Mayas believe that Earth was created by three Gods. They believe that these three celestial beings made all the decisions pertaining to nature and the environment. In many ways, Maya houses pay homage to the Mayan Gods.
Every roof on a Maya house in a triangle — three points for three Gods. The three wooden posts that form the structure of the roof represent the spiritual beings that, according to Mayan culture, created Earth.
The Maya worldview and the Maya house are inextricably linked. The small, eco-friendly dwellings that still provide homes to modern-day Mayas were initially inspired by the shape of the universe. And the stone temples that litter the Maya homeland were inspired by these simple yet highly spiritual dwellings.
Living in Harmony with the Environment
The building process is a marriage of ancient building techniques, local materials and the spirituality of local people. Sustainable, eco-friendly and beautiful, every house is born from the environment in which it sits.
For Mayas, building a house is a family event. Relatives and friends come from miles around to take part in the building process. This is both a social and spiritual event that brings people together to celebrate culture, history and spirituality.
Locals start the process by collecting tropical hardwoods from the local area. These woods are indigenous to the Yucatán Province, so they’re resistant to local pests such as termites.
Four long timbers are laid out to ascertain where the post holes will be dug. The posts are sunk into the holes and packed into place with earth and rocks.
A series of individual timbers are then tied to the frame to create a triangular roof. The walls are created with a series of posts to create an oval shape. A small wall and concrete floor are added to the base of the house — although concrete is a relatively modern addition to Maya houses.
The roofing material is a thatching material made from palm. The result is a stunning palapa roof, which is a traditional Mexican roof you’ll see across the country.
Immerse Yourself in the Ancient Maya House-Building Process
Watching local Mayas create a beautiful dwelling using ancient techniques and materials that can be harvested from the local rainforest is awe-inspiring. Take a look for yourself by watching the video below. And learn more about the cultural aspects of the house-building process by watching an interview with Maya expert Dr. Dámaso Rivas Gutierrez.
You’ll see that this ancient culture has preserved many of its most important traditions for future generations to enjoy. That’s one of the reasons why the Mayas still produce the most spectacular raw honey in the world.