|The ancient Maya traded all kinds of things -- including|
the above. (Image a composite of images from the USGS,
the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the USDA.)
The remnants of the ancient Maya civilization don’t talk a lot about markets. But those who study the Maya have still been able to create ideas about what markets were like in ancient Maya times -- by doing things like looking at current markets, Spanish accounts, and doing soil tests.
What Could Be Traded
There's a view that elites controlled luxury items, which they got as tribute -- then they passed these items on, following social rules. This view also says that commoners traded items that were everyday items. But this might not be completely true.
It may be that the Maya put markets near places where lots of people would be gathered together, and near places where lots of people would pass. Some examples of these possible places are ballcourts, wells, popular roads, and the end of roads.
Moving on to marketplaces, it doesn’t look like there were specific buildings the Maya used for getting together to trade. It may be that they used open spaces like plazas. Examples of sites where it looks like marketplaces may have been include Chunchucmil, Motul de San Jose, and Coba.
As for how the traders were set up, it seems that it depended on the community. In some places though, they may have been lined up in rows.
Who Got To Trade at Markets
Archaeologists don’t know for sure whether it was just women, men or both genders who normally got to trade. Murals at the site of Calakmul -- located in the Chiik Nahb complex, may have a piece of evidence about genders and trading at markets. One-third of the people that can still be recognized are women. There’s a woman who may possibly have even been a kind of manager.
Consideration: "Money" Items
Around the time of contact with the Spanish, the ancient Maya would use certain items as a kind of money. Examples of these items include jade, cotton mantles, and salt. It may even be that the Maya used items as "money" back into the Classic Period.
It seems that markets were important for ancient Maya communities. Why? Because communities had to rely on each other to get items that they needed.
Google Books: "The Ancient Maya Marketplace: The Archaeology of Transient Space"; Eleanor M. King (editor); 2015
University of Calgary: "Trading Spaces: The Archaeology of Interaction, Migration, and Exchange"; November 2013 (goes to a download link)
Google Books: "Cities of the Maya in Seven Epochs, 1250 B.C. to A.D. 1903"; Steve Glassman, Armando Anaya; 2011
CIA World Factbook: Mexico (1/24)
USDA: "20170831-OSEC-LSC-1847"; Lance Cheung
The Metropolitan Museum of Art: Deity Face Pendant
The Metropolitan Museum of Art: Canine Ornament
USGS: "Salt, Sodium, Chlorine"; Scott Horvath, USGS