Plantio casa mayaThe life of the Maya used to take place in the cultivation fields, the patios of their homes, and in the public spaces. They cooked and socialized in open areas. Their lodgings were rudimentary and built with perishable elements. They didn’t remain there for long periods of time; only long enough for refuge and rest.

They devised an architecture projected toward the outside, in which the monumental buildings were conceived to be seen from the exterior, making an impression on the people of their symbolism and sacred destiny. This included those buildings which housed the political powers, due to its identification with the Maya cosmogony.

Based on these intentions, they created their buildings with orientation toward the heavenly bodies: the Sun, the Moon, Venus, the Clusters, and Sirius. Their interest in astronomy came about because they noticed that the position of the stars influenced their agriculture. And because this was the basis for their sustenance, they deduced that the stars intervened in the well-being of the people, in general, and the governors, in particular. To the point of concluding that, observing them, they could predict the future of mankind.

These conclusions have been reached after detailed observation and conscientious study of the research done by an interdisciplinary team including archaeologists, anthropologists, architects, designers, historians, sociologists, and astronomers, among other experts.

This was the task of Master in Architecture Ana Leslie del Carmen Escalante Canto, who accompanies us in these reflections. Ana Leslie Escalante has in publication progress her Master’s thesis, where she evaluates the place occupied by astronomy in the Pre-Hispanic Maya architecture.

There the author explains that the Maya buildings and stelae indicate the equinoxes and solstices, the zenith and nadir, the seasons of rain and drought, the changes in the setting sun, and the lunar cycles: of tremendous assistance for planting and harvesting.

She also explains that they had in mind the management of natural light, with magic and religious goals, in their architectural designs; as is seen with the Castillo of Chichén Itzá, which is a great calendar where the equinoxes are noted.

And she adds that their buildings allowed them to observe the movement of the heavenly bodies, which mainly represented the most important deities. Such is the case with the building of the Caracol, located in that same Maya city, where it has been discovered that the openings are oriented toward various heavenly bodies: Venus, the Moon, and the Sun.

By Yurina Fernández Noa
Email: [email protected]

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