What Kinds of Dwellings Did the Mayans Live In?

The elaborate Mayan architecture seen in temples was not as common in everyday dwellings.

The Maya were an ancient civilization based in present-day Mexico and Central America. While some Mayan descendants survive today, the culture's greatest peak occurred sometime before 1,000 AD. In addition to accomplishments in math and astronomy, Mayan architecture is known for being very advanced for its time. However, its complexity varied greatly depending on the type of structure. A grand Mayan temple bears little resemblance to a humble family dwelling.

1 Studying Mayan Dwellings

Traditional Mayan homes were built entirely out of organic elements, such as wood, mud and hay. Consequently, none exist today, unlike the ancient stone temples and cities that have been uncovered in the jungles. However, archaeologists and researchers have found ruins, excavated remains and have studied depictions of traditional Mayan homes in mural paintings and stone decorations on grander buildings and have learned that ancient Mayan homes were very similar to rustic houses still built today in parts of rural Mexico and Central America.

2 Construction of a Mayan Home

Mayan homes were constructed on single-family lots with low stone walls functioning as a sort of property line. The family lived in a main hut with floors made of gravel covered with packed soil, wooden beams providing the frame, and packed adobe mud forming the walls. The roof was usually made from bundles of wood and thatched with palm fronds. Occasionally, a secondary hut would serve as a kitchen, chicken coop, laundry or a combination of all three.

3 Upper Class Mayan Homes

Occasionally, Mayan homes for upper class families were built from stone. Generally these were made from limestone, which was plentiful and somewhat easily molded into desirable shapes. Aside from the obvious difference in material, the stone houses resembled the hay huts in form and shape. The roofs were still typically thatched with the traditional bundles of shorn wood and palm fronds.

4 Burials in Mayan Homes

Aside from living in their huts, many Mayan families buried the dead under the floors of their homes. Along with the bodies themselves, excavations have shown that Mayans frequently buried artifacts or objects of importance to the family. The objects were broken or destroyed in some way as well so that they could pass on to the next stage of their life. These rites and rituals have been crucial in research into traditional Mayan life.

Sara Gates has been a freelance writer since 2009. Her work has been featured at numerous online outposts, primarily in the areas of travel and finer living. After years of working in the hospitality industry, she loves to share her expertise and enthusiasm regarding travel, food and hotels through her writing.