A stone canvas: interpreting Maya building materials and construction technology
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This dissertation will bring together from disparate sources what is known today about the building materials used by the ancient Maya and the construction technology they used to assemble their remarkable buildings. This knowledge will then be utilized to examine questions regarding Maya technology and specialization from a “bottom up” viewpoint in hopes of pointing out a valuable tool for examining the ancient Maya and delineating gaps in our knowledge. The study of Maya architecture has long depended on works on engineering and architecture that were written in the 1930’s and 40’s. While excellent for their time these works were in many cases speculative or incomplete and do not compare with modern materials research or archaeological method. Studies and knowledge, from both within and without the archaeological community, are gathered together in the first part of this work to examine what is known about the materials and technology used in building the Maya centers. The second half takes this knowledge and utilizes to examine two current scientific questions in Mesoamerica. The first is wholly practical and utilizes the knowledge of technology and procedure to look at Maya lime burning. The specific question is whether or not the ancient Maya possessed kiln technologies beyond that of open heap burning. If they were able to use more fuel and temperature-efficient methods this would have broad implications for the reconstruction of the Maya environment as well as the Maya use of labor. The second is theoretical and takes what we know of the practical crafts and characteristics and applies that information to an examination of specialization among the ancient Maya, specifically whether or not Maya monumental buildings were planned or constructed by architects. The assumption to date has been that Maya architects existed which again holds implications for the ancient use of labor, social hierarchies and knowledge base.