The Mayan civilization lacked many advanced technologies, including metal tools. Basic tools made from materials such as stone, hardwood and bone were used to construct buildings, create works of art and for farming. Stone tools were used by the Maya to construct palaces, temples and pyramids, many of which are still standing today.
Stone chisels were important in the creation of Mayan buildings and works of art. Small, flint chisels were used to add the finishing details to religious stonework sculptures.
Stone scrapers, usually made from flint, were used for a variety of purposes. They were used domestically for food preparation, particularly in the butchering of animal carcasses, as well as for the shaping of construction materials.
Basic hammers were made from both stone and hardwoods. Stone hammer heads were either attached to hardwood shafts or simply struck with other hard objects.
Stone axe heads were attached to hardwood handles for chopping trees and splitting logs. These axes could also be used as basic weapons.
Knives and other sharp-bladed tools are known by archeologists as flake tools. The blades were made from flakes of flint or obsidian, a type of volcanic glass. Flint could achieve an adequate cutting edge, while obsidian blades, according to the Authentic Maya website, have a cutting edge sharper than that of surgical steel.
The Maya used stone tools to grind corn. These corn grinding tools were similar to the traditional mortar and pestle still used today. According to historian Heather Irene McKillop in “The Ancient Maya: New Perspectives,” the corn-grinding implement consisted of a flat grinding surface known as a metate and a hand-held, cylindrical grinder called a mano.
The Maya used plumb-bobs, also known as plummets, to create a vertical reference line for construction purposes. A heavy stone was suspended from a string, with the weight of the stone pulling the string taut and creating a perfect vertical line when steady.
The hoe was perhaps the most important Mayan farming tool. The hoe was constructed using a wooden shaft, to which was affixed a hand-shaped stone head. The design was simple but vital for tending the land.
The Maya relied heavily upon wood and stone for the construction of their weapons. Flint and obsidian were used for bladed weapons and arrowheads. Stone clubs and axes served as more rudimentary weapons.
- "The Ancient Maya: New Perspectives"; Heather Irene McKillop; 2004
- "Stone Tools: Theoretical Insights into Human Prehistory"; George H. Odell; 1996
- World Museum of Man: Pre-Columbian Mayan Collection: Tools Weapons and Artifacts
- Authentic Maya: Obsidian in The Maya World
- chichen itza image by Morkidz photography from Fotolia.com