An exploration, using research from the Maya site Motul de San Jose in Guatemala, of how political structures and dynamics have been examined by political anthropologists and archaeologists over the last century.
Ancient Maya Political Economies examines variation in systems of economic production and exchange and how these systems supported the power networks that integrated Maya society. Using models originally developed by William L. Rathje, the authors explore core-periphery relations, the use of household analysis to reconstruct political economy, and
In this new archaeological study, Arthur Demarest brings the lost pre-Columbian civilization of the Maya to life. In applying a holistic perspective to the most recent evidence from archaeology, paleoecology, and epigraphy, this theoretical interpretation emphasises both the brilliant rain forest adaptations of the ancient Maya and the Native American spirituality that permeated all aspects of their daily life. Demarest draws on his own discoveries and the findings of colleagues to reconstruct the complex lifeways and volatile political history of the Classic Maya states of the first to eighth centuries. He provides a new explanation of the long-standing mystery of the ninth-century abandonment of most of the great rain forest cities. Finally, he draws lessons from the history of the Classic Maya cities for contemporary society and for the ongoing struggles and resurgence of the modern Maya peoples, who are now re-emerging from six centuries of oppression.
Architecture and the Origins of Preclassic Maya Politics highlights the dramatic changes in the relationship of ancient Maya peoples to the landscape and to each other in the Preclassical period (ca. 2000 BC–250 AD). Offering a comprehensive history of Preclassic Maya society, James Doyle focuses on recent discoveries of early writing, mural painting, stone monuments, and evidence of divine kingship that have reshaped our understanding of cultural developments in the first millennium BC. He also addresses one of the crucial concerns of contemporary archaeology: the emergence of political authorities and their subjects in early complex polities. Doyle shows how architectural trends in the Maya Lowlands in the Preclassic period exhibit the widespread cross-cultural link between monumental architecture of imposing intent, human collaboration, and urbanism.
The flat, dry reaches of the northern Yucat‡n Peninsula have been largely ignored by archaeologists drawn to the more illustrious sites of the south. This book is the first volume to focus entirely on the northern Maya lowlands, presenting a broad cross-section of current research projects in the region by both established and up-and-coming scholars. To address the heretofore unrecognized importance of the northern lowlands in Maya prehistory, the contributors cover key topics relevant to Maya studies: the environmental and historical significance of the region, the archaeology of both large and small sites, the development of agriculture, resource management, ancient politics, and long-distance interaction among sites. As a volume in the series Native Peoples of the Americas, it adds a human dimension to archaeological findings by incorporating modern ethnographic data. By exploring various social and political levels of Maya society through a broad expanse of time, Lifeways in the Northern Maya Lowlands not only reconstructs a little-known past, it also suggests the broad implications of archaeology for related studies of tourism, household economies, and ethno-archaeology. It is a benchmark work that pointedly demonstrates the need for researchers in both north and south to ignore modern geographic boundaries in their search for new ideas to further their understanding of the ancient Maya.
Much of what we currently know about the ancient Maya concerns the activities of the elites who ruled the societies and left records of their deeds carved on the monumental buildings and sculptures that remain as silent testimony to their power and status. But what do we know of the common folk who labored to build the temple complexes and palaces and grew the food that fed all of Maya society? This pathfinding book marshals a wide array of archaeological, ethnohistorical, and ethnographic evidence to offer the fullest understanding to date of the lifeways of ancient Maya commoners. Senior and emerging scholars contribute case studies that examine such aspects of commoner life as settlement patterns, household organization, and subsistence practices. Their reports cover most of the Maya area and the entire time span from Preclassic to Postclassic. This broad range of data helps resolve Maya commoners from a faceless mass into individual actors who successfully adapted to their social environment and who also held primary responsibility for producing the food and many other goods on which the whole Maya society depended.
The Maya World brings together over 60 authors, representing the fields of archaeology, art history, epigraphy, geography, and ethnography, who explore cutting-edge research on every major facet of the ancient Maya and all sub-regions within the Maya world. The Maya world, which covers Guatemala, Belize, and parts of Mexico, Honduras, and El Salvador, contains over a hundred ancient sites that are open to tourism, eight of which are UNESCO World Heritage Sites, and many thousands more that have been dug or await investigation. In addition to captivating the lay public, the ancient Maya have attracted scores of major interdisciplinary research expeditions and hundreds of smaller projects going back to the 19th century, making them one of the best-known ancient cultures. The Maya World explores their renowned writing system, towering stone pyramids, exquisitely painted murals, and elaborate funerary tombs as well as their creative agricultural strategies, complex social, economic, and political relationships, widespread interactions with other societies, and remarkable cultural resilience in the face of historical ruptures. This is an invaluable reference volume for scholars of the ancient Maya, including archaeologists, historians, and anthropologists.
For the ancient Maya, food was both sustenance and a tool for building a complex society. This collection, the first to focus exclusively on the social uses of food in Classic Maya culture, deploys a variety of theoretical approaches to examine the meaning of food beyond diet—ritual offerings and restrictions, medicinal preparations, and the role of nostalgia around food, among other topics. For instance, how did Maya feasts build community while also reinforcing social hierarchy? What psychoactive substances were the elite Maya drinking in their caves, and why? Which dogs were good for eating, and which breeds became companions? Why did even some non-elite Maya enjoy cacao, but rarely meat? Why was meat more available for urban Maya than those closer to hunting grounds on the fringes of cities? How did the molcajete become a vital tool and symbol in Maya gastronomy? These chapters, written by some of the leading scholars in the field, showcase a variety of approaches and present new evidence from faunal remains, hieroglyphic texts, chemical analyses, and art. Thoughtful and revealing, Her Cup for Sweet Cacao unlocks a more comprehensive understanding of how food was instrumental to the development of ancient Maya culture.
Archaeological evidence - i.e. presence of exogenous, foreign material objects (pottery, obsidian and so on) - is used to make inferences on ancient trade, while population movement can only be assessed when the biological component of an ancient community is analyzed (i.e. the human skeletal remains). But the exchange of goods or the presence of foreign architectural patterns does not necessarily imply genetic admixture between groups, while at the same time humans can migrate for reasons that may not be related only to trading. The Prehispanic Maya were a complex, highly stratified society. During the Classic period, city-states governed over large regions, establishing complex ties of alliance and commerce with the region’s minor centers and their allies, against other city-states within and outside the Maya realm. The fall of the political system during the Classic period (the Maya collapse) led to hypothetical invasions of leading groups from the Gulf of Mexico into the northern Maya lowland at the onset of the Postclassic. However, it is still unclear whether this collapse was already underway when this movement of people started. The whole picture of population dynamics in Maya Prehispanic times, during the Classic and the Postclassic, can slowly emerge only when all the pieces of the puzzle are put together in a holistic and multidisciplinary fashion. The contributions of this volume bring together contributions from archaeology, archaeometry, paleodemography and bioarchaeology. They provide an initial account of the dynamic qualities behind large–scale ancient population dynamics, and at the same time represent novel multidisciplinary points of departure towards an integrated reconstruction and understanding of Prehispanic population dynamics in the Maya region.
A fresh examination of variable social and economic processes, Framing Complexity in Formative Mesoamerica explores nascent social complexity during the Preclassic/Formative period in Mesoamerica and addresses broader social questions about egalitarian and transegalitarian prehispanic Mesoamerican cultural groups. Contributors present multiple lines of evidence demonstrating the process of social complexity and reconsider a number of traditionally accepted models and presumed tenets as a result of the wealth of empirical data that has been gathered over the past four decades. Their chapters approach complexity as a process rather than a state of being by exploring social aggregation, the emergence of ethnic affiliations, and aspects of regional and macroregional variability. Framing Complexity in Formative Mesoamerica presents some of the most recent data—and the implications of that data—for understanding the development of complex societies as human beings moved into urban environments. The book is an especially important volume for researchers and students working in Mesoamerica, as well as archaeologists taking a comparative approach to questions of complexity. Contributors: Jaime J. Awe, Sarah B. Barber, Jeffrey S. Brezezinski, M. Kathryn Brown, Ryan H. Collins, Kaitlin Crow, Lisa DeLance, Gary M. Feinman, Sara Dzul Gongora, Guy David Hepp, Arthur A. Joyce, Rodrigo Martin Morales, George Micheletti, Deborah L. Nichols, Terry G. Powis, Zoe J. Rawski, Prudence M. Rice, Michael P. Smyth, Katherine E. South, Jon Spenard, Travis W. Stanton, Wesley D. Stoner, Teresa Tremblay Wagner
3,000 Years of War and Peace in the Maya Lowlands presents the cutting-edge research of 25 authors in the fields of archaeology, biological anthropology, art history, ethnohistory, and epigraphy. Together, they explore issues central to ancient Maya identity, political history, and warfare. The Maya lowlands of Guatemala, Belize, and southeast Mexico have witnessed human occupation for at least 11,000 years, and settled life reliant on agriculture began some 3,100 years ago. From the earliest times, Maya communities expressed their shifting identities through pottery, architecture, stone tools, and other items of material culture. Although it is tempting to think of the Maya as a single unified culture, they were anything but homogeneous, and differences in identity could be expressed through violence. 3,000 Years of War and Peace in the Maya Lowlands explores the formation of identity, its relationship to politics, and its manifestation in warfare from the earliest pottery-making villages through the late colonial period by studying the material remains and written texts of the Maya. This volume is an invaluable reference for students and scholars of the ancient Maya, including archaeologists, art historians, and anthropologists.