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The Charger Account

The Student News Site of Dos Pueblos High School

The Charger Account

Mayan culture and its influence on present-day art

Alex Ortiz
A painting inspired by Mayan architecture.

While much of Mayan culture did not survive into modern times, its legacy has inspired art outside of Mayan civilization. This civilization was made up of the eastern and south-eastern areas of Mesoamerica, which are located near present-day Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, and Belize. The culture is currently well-known for their calendar, astronomical system, and artwork.

A display of Mayan hieroglyphs and drawings. (Ben Earwicker | Garrison Photography, Boise, ID)

According to History on the Net, Mayan art was frequently made from materials such as stone, wood, jade, shells, and bone. Obsidian mirrors, clay figures, and stucco portraits were owned by elites, while larger works like statues and murals could be displayed for the public. Individual expression can still be found in these works, with signatures carved in finished products.

Mortal royalty and immortal deities were common subjects of Mayan artwork. As explained by The Metropolitan Museum of Art, both were viewed as divine figures, leading to their connection being highlighted in elaborate pieces. Many of these Mayan deities were portrayed as pivotal to the day and night cycle, agricultural bounty, and formation of the Earth. Aspects

A Mayan figure carved into stone. (monique72 on

of their lives were showcased as well, including their various struggles and accomplishments.

After thousands of years, Mayan civilization eventually disappeared. Factors such as war, politics, weather, diseases, or droughts may have contributed to the decline of their civilization. Many works of art were unable to be preserved as a result. Additionally, Spain had colonized Mayan civilization, destroying many traditional artifacts in the process. However, skills passed down from generation to generation have allowed Mayan traditions to continue through artwork.

The Temple of Kukulcán at Chichen Itza during the day. This large structure was built on top of an older temple, and blends into the colors of the landscape around it. (gillmy1 on

Current artists have taken inspiration from this knowledge of Mayan culture. For instance, Mayan architecture has had an influence on a lot of architecture in Central America. According to, Mayan buildings were notable for their use of texture, design, and open space. They came in a variety of shapes and sizes, and contained elements that blended into the Mexican landscape. Instead of adding additional buildings to cities, they would build larger structures on top of older ones. Buildings across Central America, beyond where the Mayan civilization once was, reflect this open style of architecture.

The colors and patterns used in modern Mexican muralism also reflected the designs of

A digitally recreated Mayan mural from Bonampak, an archaeological site. (Wikimedia Commons)

Mayan murals that came before them. Many murals from those time periods portrayed vibrant figures or deities, usually dressed in traditional or ceremonial garments. These pieces contained societal, political, and historical messages geared towards the public. The mural movement has changed over time, but the influences of Mayan murals can still be noticed in the present day.

Mayan culture has been preserved through ancient artifacts, but also through present-day art that has continued Mayan traditions. The influence of Mayan artwork can be felt across Mexico and Central America, and will likely continue to influence more pieces of art in the future.

Maya civilization
Ancient Maya art
Overview of Mayan Art
Ancient Maya Sculpture
Lives of the Gods: Divinity in Maya Art
The Impact Of Mayan Architecture
Mexican muralism


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About the Contributor
Alex Ortiz
Alex Ortiz, Copy Editor
Alex Ortiz (11) coding a website template for others to use. They have been creating games, learning various languages, and coding LED sculpture programs. “It's really fun to just spout out lines of code, and then just see, wow, that's the thing I created,” Alex said.
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