According to the wise Greek Eudemus of Rhodes, who lived some 300 years before Christ, geometry was discovered by the Egyptians, who constantly had to measure their lands due to the frequent flooding of the Nile which erased their borders.

This explains the meaning of the term geometry, of Greek origin, and the work of the first geometricians: “geo” means earth and “metrein” means measure.


As well, there is irrefutable evidence that geometry was applied in the design processes and construction of the Pre-Hispanic Maya cities.


Master of Architecture Ana Leslie del Carmen Escalante Canto refers to this fact in her Master’s thesis. This professor centered her thesis on geometry and astronomy as fundamental elements of design for Pre-Hispanic architecture.


Her research shows that the use of the golden ratio by Maya architects, and their profound understanding of astronomy, confirms their dominance of geometry to calculate height, distances of observation, and the positioning of elements: windows, niches, doors, alignments, shadows, lights, vapor trails, and underground observatories.


Escalante Canto quotes the specialists Luís Delaye and Enrique Flores Tritschler, who speak about the use of the radian in Chichén Itzá, and emphasize how the angle formed by the visuals which go from the Snail to the Ball Court, is exactly one radian.


The radian allows designers to calculate visual cones, and in this way suggest levels of lighting in a building or urban area. This angle, equal to 57.3 degrees, is close to the 60 degrees used by architects to calculate visuals in their sketches of perspectives.


Master of Architecture Escalante Canto, who presents a broad and varied bibliography, refers to “The Mathematical Knowledge of the Pre-Hispanic Mayas” by Lorenza Flores, who supports the domination of geometric laws among the Maya, through the discovery of some of these concepts in their language: “tanchumucci,” half point of a segment; “peet, peete,” circle; “amayte,” square, among others.


In the same way, tracking old Maya, she found phrases that seem to be used in the construction of buildings: “ppiz-escunah-xuuk,” draw building plan; “umoyna,” angle of a house; “ninixcunzah,” place on an incline, to mention a few.


Finally, and after reviewing a representative sample of interdisciplinary material which exists on this subject, Ana Leslie del Carmen Escalante Canto concludes that the Pre-Hispanic architecture is the result of a design process, where geometry played a primary role in the development and evolution of formal and spatial expression.


By Yurina Fernández Noa
Email: [email protected]

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