Architectural Styles

Discover the features of the main styles
Architectural Styles

Share it

The Chiapas Highland

It is characterized by a pattern where the lower parts of the hills are used for building great plazas, and the natural walls of these plazas are encased in architectural barriers that form terraces. Inside, temples, palaces and altars were built. Stonewalls are usually decorated with stuccowork and polychrome. The terrace system and the bases are inclined ledges. The height of this period was between 400 and 900 AD.


Different from the Bec River style, in the Chenes style the towers are functional. The facades are also decorated with figureheads and occasionally there are exempt towers that are used as solar markers. The style is very similar to Bec River and Puuc, since all three were developed during the same period.

Pacific Coast

Its zenith was during the late Pre-Classic period, although in some areas it remained until de Classic period. Pyramidal bases at ground level, with very inclined slopes, characterize it. During the Classical period the bases began to be encased in stone. The sites in this style usually present complex hydraulic systems and roads and plazas also covered with stones.

East Coast

This was the architectural style developed in the cities and settlements on the Eastern coast of the Yucatan peninsula during the Post-Classic period. It is characterized by flat roofs and small lintels tucked into the temples, with porches or main entrances supported by columns. Another characteristic is the presence of altars and small sanctuaries.

Maya Toltec

This style corresponds to the style developed in the Northern region of the Yucatan Peninsula in the Post-Classic period (1000 – 1450 AD) and inclined bases with extracted moldings characterize it. The staircases present fringes of stone with serpent heads. The palaces had rooms with flat roofs sustained by a plethora of columns. Speaking of columns, the ones used for porches were presented in the form of serpents, with the head at the base and the rattle on the capital. Occasionally, the columns on the porches were “atlantes” or human figure statues sustaining the roof.


This architectural style is defined by the use of slopes in “apron” form that rest upon a short incline. The corners of the bases or plinths are rounded, tucked-in or inverted, which gives the floor the form of a star. These bases are crowned with temples with thick openings and heavy crests. Likewise, the staircases, commonly without ridges, are monolithic and they are flanked by stucco figureheads that are either anthropomorphic or zoomorphic. It is a style characteristic of the sites of the late Pre-Classic period (300 BC – 250 AD) and the early Classic period (250 – 600 AD).


The Puuc style is characterized by the use of buildings with many stories and rooms, with facades decorated with columns and pilasters finished off with capitals. The supporting walls are decorated with friezes made of well carved stone, arranged in geometrical forms, like figureheads of the god Chaac, that also decorate the corners of the temples.

Bec River

This style was developed during the late Classic period (550 – 1050 AD.) as a modification of the Peten style. It is characterized by the use of decorative towers with unfeasible staircases that lead to simulated temples. The facades are decorated with checkered boards and with figurehead representations on the arcades.

Mesoamerican Chronology

Architectural Styles