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Maya Political Science

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    Maya Political Science
    Book Description:

    How did the ancient Maya rule their world? Despite more than a century of archaeological investigation and glyphic decipherment, the nature of Maya political organization and political geography has remained an open question. Many debates have raged over models of centralization versus decentralization, superordinate and subordinate status-with far-flung analogies to emerging states in Europe, Asia, and Africa. But Prudence Rice asserts that neither the model of two giant "superpowers" nor that which postulates scores of small, weakly independent polities fits the accumulating body of material and cultural evidence.

    In this groundbreaking book, Rice builds a new model of Classic lowland Maya (AD 179-948) political organization and political geography. Using the method of direct historical analogy, she integrates ethnohistoric and ethnographic knowledge of the Colonial-period and modern Maya with archaeological, epigraphic, and iconographic data from the ancient Maya. On this basis of cultural continuity, she constructs a convincing case that the fundamental ordering principles of Classic Maya geopolitical organization were the calendar (specifically a 256-year cycle of time known as themay) and the concept of quadripartition, or the division of the cosmos into four cardinal directions. Rice also examines this new model of geopolitical organization in the Preclassic and Postclassic periods and demonstrates that it offers fresh insights into the nature of rulership, ballgame ritual, and warfare among the Classic lowland Maya.

    eISBN: 978-0-292-79738-3
    Subjects: Archaeology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-xiv)
    (pp. xv-xviii)
    (pp. xix-xx)
    (pp. xxi-xxiv)
    (pp. 1-21)

    The political organization of the Classic period (a.d. 179–948) lowland Maya civilization of northern Guatemala, Belize, and the Yucatán peninsula of Mexico (Fig. 1.1) has defied explication. Proposed models debate centralized versus decentralized, stable versus unstable, and chiefly versus state systems, often with far-flung analogies: Mediterranean city-states, medieval feudal systems, African segmentary ʺstates,ʺ Aegean peer-polities, Thai galactic polities, and Bali theater states. All lack compelling goodness of fit and insight into process.

    A more productive avenue for investigating Maya political organization begins with the ʺdirect-historical approach,ʺ which integrates modern ethnography and indigenous lowland Maya and Spanish commentary from the...

  7. CHAPTER 2 Previous Reconstructions of Classic Maya Political Organization
    (pp. 22-55)

    The Classic period (a.d. 179–948; see Table 1.1) political organization of the lowland Maya has been the subject of endless theorizing, modeling, and debate throughout the twentieth century (see reviews by Becker 1971:28–105, 1979; Willey 1986; Hammond 1991:14–18; Culbert 1991b; Marcus 1993; Lucero 1999; McAnany 2001; Iannone 2002; Webster 2002:Chap. 5). Early reconstructions have fallen into disfavor and then reemerged as more data are accumulated and intellectual currents shift. Debates have crystallized around polar positions on interrelated and generally scalar issues of size, centralization, hierarchy, autonomy, and stability of Maya polities in the Late Classic and through...

  8. CHAPTER 3 Maya Politico-Religious Calendrics
    (pp. 56-84)

    A direct-historical approach to Classic lowland Maya political organization begins with proximate groups—close in time, location, language, and culture—for which there is ample information about not only political structures and functions but also their archaeological correlates. Such groups are the Postclassic and Colonial period Maya of the northern Yucatán peninsula, whose geopolitical organization was ordered through a complex web of calendrical cycles and their regular celebration. This chapter focuses on the nature of Maya calendrical science, on the calendrics of the Postclassic Maya of the northern lowlands, and on the principal Maya textual sources for information on ritual...

  9. CHAPTER 4 Tikal as Early Seat of the May
    (pp. 85-120)

    Kʹatun endings were celebrated throughout the Maya lowlands during the Classic period. As revealed in Morleyʹs early twentieth-century monument surveys, the Maya regularly commemorated the completion of quarter, half, and full kʹatuns by erecting sculptured, dated stelae. Several decades ago it became evident that at Late Classic Tikal, distinctive architectural complexes known as twin-pyramid groups were specially constructed for these kʹatun-ending ceremonies (Jones 1969). Now, however, it is evident from review of inscriptions and iconography of period-ending monuments and related architectural complexes from Tikal and other sites that kʹatun-andmay-based politico-ritual organization existed in the Early Classic period, which I...

  10. CHAPTER 5 Tikal’s Late and Terminal Classic Seating of the May
    (pp. 121-167)

    Tikal was renewed as a cycle seat, ormay ku, in the Late Classic period during a Kʹatun 8 Ajaw (a.d. 672–692). In 682, the midpoint of this kʹatun, Jasaw Kan Kʹawil I (the Tikal ruler formerly known as Ruler A or Ah Cacao) came to power on 5 Kibʹ 14 Sotzʹ (May 4), only four days before the lajuntun of Thirteen years later, in 695, he claimed victory over his legendary competitor, Calakmul, a victory celebrated on September 14 of that year. Much has been made of the fact that this occurred 256 years (more precisely,...

  11. CHAPTER 6 Other Classic Period May-based Realms
    (pp. 168-203)

    There is persuasive evidence that, as Edmonson earlier conjectured, the Classic Maya observedmaycycles and that themaywas seated at Tikal. Edmonson (1979:15) also suggested that, besides Tikal, other southern lowland seats of themaymight have included Copán, Palenque, Altar de Sacrificios, and Seibal. His suggestions can be compared to the regional ʺcapitalsʺ proposed in other centralized models of Classic Maya statehood: Tikal, Copán, Palenque, and Toniná, in Morleyʹs (1946) model; Tikal, Copán, Calakmul, Palenque, and Seibal, in the Barthel-Marcus scheme; and Tikal, Copán, Calakmul, Palenque, and Yaxchilán, in Adamsʹs Late Classic vision.

    Here I discuss two...

  12. CHAPTER 7 New Terminal Classic May Realms
    (pp. 204-242)

    Archaeologistsʹ attention to the lowland Maya Terminal Classic period, typically dated from circa 790–800 to 950–1000, has long been focused on two topics: ʺcollapseʺ in the south and ʺToltecʺ influence and chronology in the north. These concerns were identified by archaeologists early in the twentieth century and have molded research and historical reconstructions since. There have been few discussions of events and processes common to both regions (but see Demarest, Rice, and Rice 2004).

    Themaymodel proposes a different interpretation of Terminal Classic circumstances in the lowlands. This period—which I date to the 128-year interval from...

  13. CHAPTER 8 Implications of the May Model
    (pp. 243-274)

    The Maya geopolitical organizational structure based on themaywould have had broad ramifications and implications for other major cultural institutions, including political economy, intra- and intersite relations, and various aspects of ritual. Here I consider the implications ofmay-based political organization for such institutions as ritual celebrations, the ballgame, warfare, and the nature of rulership itself.

    According to the evidence, the 260- and 130-tun cycles of themay, folded into 400-tun bʹakʹtuns, operated for nearly two and a half millennia, from the Middle or Late Preclassic through the Classic and Postclassic periods into Colonial times. If this is true,...

  14. CHAPTER 9 Conclusion
    (pp. 275-290)

    My working definition of political organization has been ʺthe hierarchically structured offices or roles of power and authority existing within, between, and among polities and their elites, whereby goal-oriented decisions about internal/external relations (including relations with the supernatural realm) and allocation of resources (human, material, and ideational) are made and implemented.ʺ And my concern has been to determine the nature of the political organization of the Classic lowland Maya: the structure of its power relations and the decision-making functions within that structure.

    Several lines of evidence support the proposition that Classic lowland Maya political organization is best explained through direct-historical...

    (pp. 291-332)
  16. INDEX
    (pp. 333-352)