Art AND Architecture Essays Examples

Type of paper: Essay

Topic: Maya, Art, Jaguar, Language, Birds, History, Culture, Writing

Pages: 3

Words: 825

Published: 2023/02/22


The Mayan culture flourished in Central America during ancient times. The area where the ancient Mayan language was spoken covers the modern day eastern parts of the Mexican states of Tabasco and Chiapas, the states of Quintana Roo, Yucatan, Campeche, Belize, and parts of El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala. The Mayan language goes back to 2000 BC and is spoken even today. There are over 50 different Mayan languages all descended from the original Proto- Mayan. Linguists divide Mayan languages into four groups of which Yucatan and Cholan were the main ones spoken during the Classical era.
The Mayans had a highly evolved culture with sophisticated knowledge of astronomy, science, math and religion. Their written language developed around 200 – 300 BC. It was a complex written language which was carved on palaces, temples and tall stone markers called stelae and were written on folding books made of tree barks. There were almost 500 symbols used at any given point of Mayan written history. The rapid progress in the deciphering of the Mayan script over the last thirty years has revealed that the Mayan scripts belong to what is known as a “logosyllabic” system wherein there are two distinct signs used; the logograph and the other phonetic syllables. The first represents sound and meaning while the latter only sound. The logograph is complemented by syllables used as a prefix or suffix. The Mayan writing also called glyphs are basically arranged in a paired columnar structure. The glyphs are to be read top to bottom on the left side and then top to bottom on the right side.
Mayan words could therefore be written in two ways, logographically or phonetically. For example the word jaguar called “balam” in Mayan has been found to be depicted as follows in five different ways
The Mayans recorded important events, the names, birth dates of kings and rulers as well as astrological and scientific data. They also had three calendars, solar, lunar and one related to the planet Venus. The logographic signs were pictorial often representing words that signified some event or object and the attached syllabic signs gave them their grammatical function. The Mayan hieroglyphic texts usually represent one or more sentences or phrases. Writing on small objects normally are simple statements denoting ownership. Longer texts are narrative and historical in nature denoting events. They often have dates related to the Mayan calendar.
Mayan hieroglyphs impacted their visual arts and can be found as murals, artifacts, sculptures etc. The following is a ceramic vase shaped like a Mexican grackle. The inscription drawn beside it is from its back and describes the bird, the type of vessel and its contents and finally the name of the owner.

Two views of the bird effigy Drawing at the back of the bird effigy

Headbands with symbolic pictures were extensively used by the Mayans to relay their vision of the universe, earth, and humanity -- that everything is interconnected and to visually denote the importance of kingship. In the Mayan script it was read as AJAW. The following is a representation of it.
AJAW forms of head. (a, b) as signs of day, (c, d) as title of royalty , (e) portrayed of Juun Ajaw- the mythical hero.
In Mayan writing it is often found that complex signs are condensed into a single representative hieroglyph of the whole. We see its reflection in the picture of the headband in the mural below.

 Directional Juun Ajaw figure from the San Bartolo murals with the headband. (Photograph courtesy of Ken Garrett)

Art was a very important part of Mayan culture. Large wall paintings or murals can be found in temples, palaces, tombs, observatories and ball courts, depicting history, religion and the daily life of the Mayans. They are colorful; the most notable colors used by them are a rich, bright turquoise blue and red. Woodcarvings, ceramics, stone sculptures and stucco (a form of modeled plaster) are other aspects of Mayan art. You can find the Mayan written language depicted in all their art forms.
Weaving was popular amongst Mayan and although no physical evidence remains today, in their inscriptions we find reference to cotton robes, turbans and animal shaped head dresses, worn by both men and women. The Mayan hieroglyphs were usually incorporated in their woven patterns.
The jaguar is an important motif in Mayan art. Mayans considered the skillful, cunning and powerful jaguar to be the Sun God who fought and won over the lord of darkness and the underworld Xibalba. The jaguar or balam motif is found in all aspects of Mayan visual arts from sculptures, murals to headbands. The following are three examples of “balam” in Mayan art.
Mayans not only respected birds and animals, they often gave them God-like status, as with the jaguar. Animals and birds were therefore found to be recurrent themes in their visual arts like the serpent, the grackle, the monkey, the frog and the crocodile. The following images are pictorial depictions of symbols in Mayan art.

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WePapers. (2023, February, 22) Art AND Architecture Essays Examples. Retrieved May 29, 2023, from
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Art AND Architecture Essays Examples. Free Essay Examples - Published Feb 22, 2023. Accessed May 29, 2023.

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