Mayan Pyramids

    The term "pyramid" is a geometric reference to the shape of these construction.  The Mayan version of the pyramid is truncated so that a temple can be built on the top(Stierlin99).

    The ancient Mayans built two types of pyramids, those that were meant to be climbed and those that were not.  The first type was used for holding sacrificial rituals.  The other type was not meant to be touched and was sacred.  The steps on theses structures were too steep to climb and many times they had doorways leading to nowhere.  During their rituals, the priests would ascend the pyramid from the earth to the sky by means of staircases.  They believed that this brought them closer to the gods(Stierlin 98).

    These staircases lead from ground level to the temple.  The number of staircases that the pyramids had varied, but there were typically two or four.  Many times there would be a platform connecting the steps somewhere near the middle of the pyramid so that the priest-king could stop and do a part of his ritual before continuing to the top(Stierlin 98).

    Aside from having religious functions, Mayan pyramids also had other purposes.  The pyramids were built so high that their tops could be seen protruding out of the jungle.  Because of this, the Mayan people were able to use them as landmarks.  That was not the only significance of building them so high though.  They also served as a reminder that the gods were ever present(Hernandez 13).

    Some pyramids even house burial chambers for high ranking officials.  Housed inside these mammoth structures were small burial rooms.  There were narrow corridors that led to these chambers(Hernandez 21).  These burial chambers often contained treasures such as jade(Hernandez 13).

    Aztec pyramids were comparatively similar to ones of the Maya.  One exceptionis that the Aztecs often built two or more temples at the top while the Mayan pyramids generally had one.

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