What Tools Did the Mayans Use?

Written by anthony grahame
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What Tools Did the Mayans Use?
The Mayans built Chichen Itza using basic stone tools. (Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images)

At its height, the Mayan civilisation was one of the most advanced societies in the Americas. Despite a lack of advanced technologies, most notably metal tools, the Mayans were highly capable in all occupations, from daily tasks to the construction of monumental architectural works.

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The Mayans used scrapers made of flint or bone for many of their domestic tasks. They were effective tools for butchering animal carcases, allowing the Mayans to scrape meat from the bone and remove the animal's skin. Mayan women made clothing from the carefully prepared animal skins. For intricate tasks, the Mayans used small knives made from chert flint or a volcanic glass called obsidian. Obsidian was highly prized for its incredibly sharp edge. According to the Authentic Maya website, archeologists have found obsidian blades in situ with rabbit, rodent and mollusc remains, indicating its use in butchery. The Mayans ground items, such as corn and spices using a stone mortar and pestle.


Mayan men used axes to cut down trees, clearing the land for agricultural use. The axes were made by attaching sharpened stone heads to hardwood shafts. Once the land had been cleared, Mayan farmers used a simple wooden digging stick to place seeds of corn, squash and beans into the soil, says Arthur Andrew Demarest in his book "Ancient Maya: The Rise and Fall of a Rainforest Civilization." The Mayans used a basic wooden hoe with a stone head for turning the soil.

Stone Working

The Mayans built a number of spectacular temples and palaces, some of which still stand. To build these structures, the Mayans first had to size and shape large stone blocks. The blocks were generally of soft, fine-grained stone, such as limestone and sandstone. To cut them, the Mayans used hammers and chisels made from hard, highly resistant stone. They also used a simple plumb bob for accurately determining vertical lines. By hanging a stone from a string, the Mayans created a perfect vertical reference line.

Hunting and Warfare

Hunting and warfare were important aspects of Mayan life. Hunting tools, such as the bow and arrow and wooden spear, often served as weapons of war. The Mayans also used hardwood clubs and flint stabbing knives on the battlefield. More advanced weaponry included the atlatl, a type of spear-throwing device, and wooden clubs fitted with obsidian or flint blades.

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