Mayan Arches at Uxmal

One of the most distinctive features found in Mayan architecture is the Mayan arch, a corbelled arch that spans entrances and vaults. As the Maya never discovered the true arch, the Maya were limited to construct single storey buildings with narrow, if sometimes long, rooms.

The Mayan arch can only support a limited amount of weight and requires significantly thickened walls and an abutment of other stone or fill to counteract the effects of gravity and to avoid each side of the archway to collapse inwards.

The description in the dictionary of a Mayan arch is not easy to comprehend: a corbel arch is constructed by offsetting successive courses of stone at the springline of the walls so that they project towards the archway’s center from each supporting side, until the courses meet at the apex of the archway, often capped with flat stones.

A picture paints a thousand words, so rather than trying to explain or visualise the Mayan Arch from this string of words, I have selected a set of images of Mayan Arches taken at our last visit to Uxmal to illustrate the Mayan Arch and it’s construction.

It is worthwhile to view the above image of the Mayan Arch at the House of Pigeons in full screen mode, and to zoom in and navigate around.