A Traditional Maya Dwelling: a house at Tikal, for workers on the Tikal Project (photo HSL)

Maya dwelling Many Tikal workers came from predominantly Maya towns such as Flores in the Peten district of Guatemala and brought their families with them. A whole village developed at Tikal, where prior to the archaeological project there had been no permanent residents. The buildings in this photo illustrate traditional Maya techniques, using materials gathered from the forest. The building on the left is a kitchen, and the one on the right is a dining room. The horizontally boarded enclosure to the left contains a large masonry oven for bread-making. The kitchen stove is wood burning and the smoke filters out through the thatch.
Remains of ancient buildings very similar to these are found in many excavation contexts throughout the Maya area. It was and still remains a common Maya practice to build a single family dwelling as a group of separate buildings. This strategy keeps each individual roof simple in geometry and suitable for thatching with palm leaves. The roof needs to be in full sunlight so that the thatch will not rot. The floor is a low masonry pad finished with cement plaster. Ancient houses of this sort had similar floors but finished with lime plaster. The floor pad and post molds are usually all that remains of ancient dwellings of this type.
Rethatching a house in northern Yucatan. The grass thatch material can be seen drying on the stone wall that defines the yard. The pole roof structure may have been used and reused for generations. This is round-ended house similar to the one near Mul Chic pictured below.
House at Tayasal. Guatemala. It has three separate buildings. This is so that each one can be thatched independently with no awkward joints between roofing planes. The front facade of the front building is plastered and has windows. These are unusual features in Maya houses. The thatch is palm leaves.
Rear view of above house. View is over Lake Peten and Flores. The building on the left is for storage. The one on the right , pictured above, is for living, dining. sleeping. Arrangement of two doorways centered opposite each other in front and rear walls is very common. The kitchen is the centrer rear building.
For a close-up view of typical Maya thatch construction click here.
A house at Tayasal, Guatemala with kitchen garden and mango trees. The thatch in made of palm leaves and the environment is very lush as compared with northern Yucatan.
A house near the site of Mul Chic in northern Yucatan. The rounded end facilitates thatching and has very ancient history in the Maya area. Cooking is done in the small open structure with tin roof. The "house" is used for sleeping, eating and socializing. The masonry base is the only part that survives in ancient houses of this type. Thatch is of grass.

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