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Mayan Art

The distinct style of Maya art that developed during the Preclassic period (1500 B.C. to 250 A.D.) has influences from the Olmec civilization. Other Mesoamerican civilizations, including Teotihuacan and the Toltecs, affected Maya art, which reached its zenith during the civilization's Classic period (c. 200 to 900 AD). The Maya are well known for their use of jade, obsidian and stucco.

Many pieces of Maya art are spiritual in nature; designed to appease or curry the favor of the gods. Most Maya art that survives today is in the form of funerary and ritual objects. The Maya did not have metal tools or potter's wheels, however they managed to create highly detailed and beautiful pieces of art. Most Maya art depicts gods, great rulers, legendary heroes, religious scenes and, occasionally, daily life. The focus of Maya art pieces is on human figures (whether gods or mortals). Animals and stylized designs were used as decoration on pottery and other objects. The Maya script, which could be considered an art form itself, is featured on most statues and carvings.

Maya art takes many forms, from tiny pieces of carved obsidian to gigantic pyramids and stelae. The dominance of the Maya religion can be seen through all of these art forms; most objects have a spiritual or religious purpose.

Many examples of Maya pottery survive today. Along with clay vessels, the Maya created many earthenware figures of humans and animals. Several examples of the Teotihuacan fresco technique of applying paint to a wet clay surface have been found at Maya sites, showing the influence that civilization had on Maya art. Most pieces of pottery were decorated with images of humans, animals , or mythological creatures. Many highly detailed clay figurines were made by the Maya, portraying humans and gods. These were made with molds and by hand. Many of these figures were buried with rulers, which is how they survived to the current day.

The Maya created a great number of sculptures, many of which can be seen at Maya sites and museums. A common form of Maya sculpture was the stela. These were large stone slabs covered with carvings. Many depict the rulers of the cities they were located in, and others show gods. The stelae almost always contained hieroglyphs, which have been critical to determining the significance and history of Maya sites. Other stone carvings include figurines, similar to the earthenware ones described earlier, and stone lintels which show scenes of blood sacrifice.

The Maya used a great deal of jade in their art. Many stone carvings had jade inlays, and there were also ritual objects created from jade. It is remarkable that the Maya, who had no metal tools, created such intricate and beautiful objects from jade, a very hard and dense material. An excellent example is the death mask of Pacal the Great, ruler of Palenque. A life-size mask created for his corpse had "skin" made from jade and "eyes" made from mother-of-pearl and obsidian. Another distinctive feature were the wooden lintels, the best examples of which are from Tikal and El Zotz, in Peten, Guatemala.

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The article above is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Maya Art"