The Influence of Mayan Culture in Contemporary Graphic DesignTweet
During my daily wondering throughout hundreds of websites, artist profiles and so on, I noticed that there are quite a few contemporary artworks that clearly have a Mayan influence – intended or not. So I thought to “put it on paper”! In the following rows you will find out some interesting stuff about this fascinating culture and I will also show you a couple of great contemporary artworks that were inspired by it. So here it goes.
The Mayan Civilization
Mayan civilization is one of the oldest known, being considered one of the original cultures of the New World, being around for about 3,000 years. The Mayans lived on the Yucatan Peninsula in the eastern part of Mesoamerica and was considered to be, at its peak, one of the most densely populated and culturally dynamic societies in the whole wide world. The Mayans are known for their amazing art, spectacular architecture and let’s not forget their sophisticated mathematical and astronomical systems – which, by the way, were way ahead of their times.
The Mayan architectures spans a couple thousands of years. Some of the most dramatic and easy to recognize are the amazing stepped pyramids in places like Coba and Chichen Itza. The last place was actually named one of the seven wonders of the world and more than that, it was a UNESCO World Heritage Site for 20 years.
The Mayan Calendar
Although it wasn’t the first Mesoamerican calendar, the Mayan calendar knows a few refinements, making it the most sophisticated. Along with the Aztec calendar, the Mayan calendar, these two are the best documented and most completely understood Mesoamerican calendars.
Mayan Scripture and Mayan Art
If you didn’t knew, the Mayan scripture was the only known fully developed written language of the pre-Columbian Americas. The Mayan art is considered by a lot of people one of the most beautiful and sophisticated art of the ancient New World.
Mayan Tree of Life
I bet this is something you didn’t know: the Mayans were the first who recognize the four primary compass directions! Each direction was associated with a color: North with white, South with yellow, East with red and West with black. The center, or the “fifth direction” was a blue-green color – which represented a great ceiba tree known today as the Mayan tree of life. This tree was the connection between the center of the Earth, the underworld and heaven.
In the Mayan religion there are thirteen heavens with thirteen Mayan gods and there are also nine gods from their nine underworlds. Natural elements like planets and stars, days and periods of time each had their own gods. The mood if a Mayan god changed depending to the day of the Mayan calendar or the positioning of the sun, stars and moon. As an example, some of the most notable gods are Ixchel – jaguar goddess of midwifery, Chaac – God of Rain and Thunder and Ah Puch – God of death.
In our days, the Mayan civilization and their descendents created sizable populations along the Mayan area also known as the Mundo Maya and keep a distinctive set of traditions and beliefs. Today, there are over 500 Mayan languages that continue to be spoken.
Mayan influence in today’s graphic design
The Mayans thought that 2012 represents the end of the world, I think we just have to wait and see if they were right, everything seems ok until now. With this prophecy in mind, a lot of artists added this idea to their work, creating illustrations and type treatments that incorporated the Mayan symbols in a creative way.
Here is what artist Gabriel Martinez Muave says about this subject: “Everybody is talking about the Mayan Prophecies, that supposedly predict the end of the world by 2012. But very few people actually know where they are written, if they are written, or where these claims come from. As it happens, the only place where we can find something similar to an actual Maya date for the «end of the world» is the Tortuguero stela, found in Tabasco, México, some years ago. According to the Long Count calendar –just one of the ways the Maya used to measure time and eras– the glyphs in this stela do state the date of December 23rd, 2012. However, they do not talk specifically about the Apocalypse or the end of times, but about a prognosticated «descent of nine dark gods».”
Mayan Prophecy Glyphs
Based on the Tortuguero stela for the cover of an upcoming book, by Gabriel Martínez Meave
In the artworks below you will recognize the colors, the use of green, orange and the Maya blue, the symbols, the masks, the totem-like characters, the Mayan calendar and many more features of the Mayan Culture and art.
This great ancient and advanced civilization of South America, the Mayans – considered experts in astronomy – predicted the end of the great cycle of ages in 2012.
What do you think? Will this year be the end of the world as we know it? Also, let us know if you like the Mayan art and these contemporary Mayan influenced graphic artworks :)
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