Saturday, March 10, 2012

Puuc Architecture

Puuc is a term used for one of the various styles of architecture that Maya developed before the arrival of the Spanish. Puuc -- or “low range of hills” -- was in vogue in the Yucatan Peninsula from around 770 to 1000 AD, (as around 1000 AD the Maya had abandoned the Puuc style sites.) Sites known for their Puuc style architecture include the cities of Sayil, Kabah, Uxmal and Labna.

Basic Setup
The Puuc style takes a building made from stones held together by a lime-based concrete and uses it as a “core” for the building. Over this core, thin pieces of cut stone are set to form a decorative veneer. Usually, only the top half of Puuc style buildings are decorated with the veneer, leaving the bottom half un-embellished.

Veneer Features
Veneer designs used for Puuc buildings include lattices made of “x” shaped stones and stepped frets -- a series of connected blocky spirals -- and also Chac masks -- which themselves are made of several pieces. Another mosaic piece this style makes use of is the engaged column, which isn’t a real column, but has a flat back that is attached to the wall. These designs would be combined in various ways to form the ultimate veneer.

Corbel Arch
The corbel arch is another part of Puuc architecture. It is made with “boot-shaped” stones to create an arch with a stepped appearance. Not to be confused with a “true” arch, the stones of the corbel arch do not use each other to hold each other up (and therefore, the corbel arch does not need a keystone.)

Alignment Features
Puuc style buildings tend to be aligned so that they all face the central plaza that was used for ritual purposes. The ceremonial centers in Puuc style sites are aligned to be 14 degrees to the right (east) of north.

The Puuc style wasn’t always used by itself. Sites exist that are a blend of Puuc style and a style that could be a northern Mexican style. One example is Chichen Itza, which was controlled by the Toltec people for a time. Chichen Itza contains both older buildings of purely Puuc (“Classic Puuc”) architecture and newer buildings of Puuc hybrid architecture. The Classic Puuc architecture is found in the southern area of the city, while the newer, hybrid buildings are found in the northern area of the city. However, it is possible that some of what looks like it came from northern Mexico could have just been invented in Chichen Itza.

University of Idaho: Non-Western Architecture: Puuc Style

University of Idaho: Non-Western Architecture: Puuc Style Facades

University of Idaho: Non-Western Architecture: Puuc Style Facades II

University of Idaho: Non-Western Architecture: Puuc Style Vaults

University of Idaho: Non-Western Architecture: Puuc/Mexican Style

"The Ancient Maya"; Robert J. Sharer, Loa P. Traxler; 2006

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