Mesoamerica before c. 1500

Art of the Maya

The ancient Maya were united by belief systems and cultural practices that included a distinct architectural style, and a writing system.

1000 B.C.E. - 1521 C.E.

Beginner's guide

Learn about the Mayan writing system, historical periods, and city-states.

videos + essays

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Maya: The Yaxchilán Lintels
Maya: The Yaxchilán Lintels

Carved lintels were commissioned by elites and attest to ritual activities, like bloodletting.

Maya: The Fenton Vase
Maya: The Fenton Vase

Vessels like this are an important source of information about Maya society since few of their books survive.

Chakalte’, Relief with Enthroned Ruler
Chakalte’, Relief with Enthroned Ruler

Look up! This elaborate carving could be seen as one walked into the temple, but only VIPs had access.

Mirror-Bearer
Mirror-Bearer

This fabulously-dressed mirror-bearer imitates the humans who performed this function in the royal courts.

Vessel with a mythological scene
Vessel with a mythological scene

During ceremonies, the user of this cup might be invited to share the story depicted here in Maya glyphs.

Palenque (Classic Period)
Palenque (Classic Period)

One of many Maya city-states, Palenque rose to prominence in the seventh century thanks to an ambitious local lord.

The Maya, an introduction
The Maya, an introduction

As independent city-states, the ancient Maya lacked a centralized power but shared a common belief system.

Yaxchilán—Lintels 24 and 25 from Structure 23 and structures 33 and 40
Yaxchilán—Lintels 24 and 25 from Structure 23 and structures 33 and 40

Over a hundred lintel relief sculptures depicting scenes from royal life survive from Yaxchilán.

Politics and History on a Maya Vase
Politics and History on a Maya Vase

Over a thousand years before Instagram, Maya painted vases communicated about the lives of the rich and famous.

Classic Maya portrait stelae
Classic Maya portrait stelae

Large stone sculptures was the principal medium for presenting Maya political and religious messages to the public.

Selected Contributors | Art of the Maya