General Aztecs Maya Tocuaro Kids Contact 22 Sep 2017/11 Vulture
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Article suitable for older students

Professor Joyce Marcus

Question for September 2016

Why did Maya houses have no windows? (2) Asked by Chalfont St. Giles Junior School. Chosen and answered by Professor Joyce Marcus.

Reconstruction of a residential platform from La Laguna, Tlaxcala. The wattle-and-daub comoner’s house had roasting and storage pits in an earthen platform lined with stone
Reconstruction of a residential platform from La Laguna, Tlaxcala. The wattle-and-daub comoner’s house had roasting and storage pits in an earthen platform lined with stone  (Click on image to enlarge)

That is an interesting topic because we do not really know the full answer. Houses might have had windows but preservation of the earliest houses from ca 1500 BC in Oaxaca (Mexico) reveals only the lowest or deepest foundations of houses, that is, the postholes and lowest courses of materials at the base of the walls.
Preservation of even later houses (at 1000 BC) rarely extends more than a foot or so in height. Rarely do we have the wall preserved to the height at which one might expect to see evidence of windows. The doorway to a house might have been sufficient to let light and air enter most simple houses. Privacy and the retention of cool or warm air could best be achieved without windows. However, once we see royal residences and palaces and impressive stone architecture (ca. AD 400-800) in the Maya area, we do see slits and narrow openings in the stone walls which did serve as windows that allowed residents to see outside the building but did not allow anyone to see inside the private quarters of noble and royal families.

Picture
Drawing by and courtesy of Professor David M. Carballo

‘Why did Aztec houses have no windows?’

‘Why did [Maya] houses have no windows?

‘Why didn’t Aztec houses have doors?’

Professor Joyce Marcus has answered just this one question

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