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Maya Palaces and Elite Residences

Maya Palaces and Elite Residences

Edited by Jessica Joyce Christie
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  • Book Info
    Maya Palaces and Elite Residences
    Book Description:

    Maya "palaces" have intrigued students of this ancient Mesoamerican culture since the early twentieth century, when scholars first applied the term "palace" to multi-room, gallery-like buildings set on low platforms in the centers of Maya cities. Who lived in these palaces? What types of ceremonial and residential activities took place there? How do the physical forms and spatial arrangement of the buildings embody Maya concepts of social organization and cosmology?

    This book brings together state-of-the-art data and analysis regarding the occupants, ritual and residential uses, and social and cosmological meanings of Maya palaces and elite residences. A multidisciplinary team of senior researchers reports on sites in Belize (Blue Creek), Western Honduras (Copan), the Peten (Tikal, Dos Pilas, Aguateca), and the Yucatan (Uxmal, Chichen-Itza, Dzibilchaltun, Yaxuna). Archaeologist contributors discuss the form of palace buildings and associated artifacts, their location within the city, and how some palaces related to landscape features. Their approach is complemented by art historical analyses of architectural sculpture, epigraphy, and ethnography. Jessica Joyce Christie concludes the volume by identifying patterns and commonalties that apply not only to the cited examples, but also to Maya architecture in general.

    eISBN: 978-0-292-79860-1
    Subjects: Archaeology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-12)

    This volume brings together scholars in archaeology, anthropology, art history, and epigraphy. They will investigate residential architecture at a number of different Maya sites, but they all will analyze architectural form and associated artifacts, as well as iconographic and epigraphic information, with the goal of reconstructing use and function of specific rooms and houses and what such reconstructions might reveal about ancient Maya social organization. The authors will look at two categories of residential architecture: palaces and residences. Both of these categories are similar in form and layout—they consist of gallery-like structures, on low platforms, that surround courtyards. They...

  5. CHAPTER ONE Elite Residences at Blue Creek, Belize
    (pp. 13-45)
    Thomas H. Guderjan, Robert J. Lichtenstein and C. Colleen Hanratty

    The purpose of this chapter is to examine elite residences at the site of Blue Creek in the upper Río Hondo drainage of northwestern Belize. This is the first overview of the topic resulting from current research at Blue Creek. It is also very much a work in progress. While we have been successful in answering many questions about the elite residences and Blue Creek in general, we still havemany important unresolved issues, meaning that this is also an agenda for future research. In this chapter, we will attempt to apply what we understand of elite residences at Blue Creek...

    (pp. 46-68)
    Loa P. Traxler

    The Acropolis of Copan preserves generations of royal architecture and represents one of the best archaeological case studies for the evolution of a Classic Maya center. Each major construction phase consistently emphasized specific locations within this royal precinct (Sharer, Fash, et al. 1999; Fash 1998). Two locations, Structure 10L-16 and Structure 10L-26, figure most prominently in this evolution (Figure 2.1), and imagery along with texts relate these loci to the founder of the Classic era dynasty, K’inich Yax K’uk’ Mo’. Recent and ongoing investigations associate the earliest largescale architecture of the Acropolis stratigraphy in these loci to the time of...

  7. CHAPTER THREE A Multipurpose Structure in the Late Classic Palace at Copan
    (pp. 69-97)
    E. Wyllys Andrews V, Jodi L. Johnson, William F. Doonan, Gloria E. Everson, Kathryn E. Sampeck and Harold E. Starratt

    Behind a facade of shared symbolic culture at lowland Maya sites lies a confounding variety of royal and elite architectural remains. This diversity of building forms and arrangements must reflect different patterns of royal behavior. Architectural and spatial contrasts among Maya sitesmay, therefore, help us to understand how social, political, and religious organization varied from one Maya site to another. Some differences may derive from age, geographic location, and size, but contemporary sites of roughly similar size in one area often exhibit strikingly dissimilar groups of important buildings and plazas. Recording the forms and interpreting the functions of such royal...

  8. CHAPTER FOUR Palaces of the Royal Court at Tikal
    (pp. 98-119)
    Peter D’Arcy Harrison

    This chapter will deal with a number of aspects of the analysis of palace architecture in general, with specific examples drawn from the city of Tikal.¹ The first topic is analysis by formin the quest for identification of function. Second is a consideration of the nature of residence and its varied manifestations. Third is an examination of the reality of a royal court for the lowland Maya and specifically at Tikal. This examination is performed by means of a cross-cultural comparison with two other societies that have been recognized as utilizing the institution of the royal court. Supporting evidence for...

  9. CHAPTER FIVE The Political Acquisition of Sacred Geography: THE MURCIÉLAGOS COMPLEX AT DOS PILAS
    (pp. 120-153)
    Arthur Demarest, Kim Morgan, Claudia Wolley and Héctor Escobedo

    Many recent studies have emphasized the role of ideology and cosmology in pre-Columbian site planning and perception (e.g., Benson 1981; Aveni and Hartung 1986; Ashmore 1986, 1989, 1991; Berlo 1993; Carlson 1981; Freidel and Schele 1988a; Freidel 1986; Miller 1988; Sugiyama 1993). Contemporary ethnography (e.g., Vogt 1981) and ancient epigraphy (e.g., Stuart and Houston 1994) confirmthat worldview and cosmology structured Maya perceptions of space, settlement, and architecture in ways that do not necessarily correspond to Western concepts of geography. These aspects of Maya architecture and settlement patterns cannot be effectively studied by objective analysis of demographic distributions, economic efficiency, defensibility,...

    (pp. 154-183)
    Takeshi Inomata and Daniela Triadan

    Architecture is one of the most important sources of information for archaeologists about social organization, lifestyle, and worldviews. In particular, residences of elites provide critical data concerning the nature of social stratification, administrative mechanisms, and dominant ideologies. Our understanding of Maya elite residences, however, is still limited. Above all, we are not able to identify elite residences with reasonable certainty (Tourtellot 1993: 230–232). Inquiries into this issue is further hampered by the ambiguity of the concept of elite. In this chapter we first review the related concepts of palace, elite, and elite residence. We then examine problems related to...

  11. CHAPTER SEVEN Access Patterns in Maya Royal Precincts
    (pp. 184-203)
    Rodrigo Liendo Stuardo

    This chapter examines the notion that architectural space is more than a mere representation of society; it is one of the primary means through which society is constituted. Following this idea, I try to highlight some aspects of social control in Classic Maya society by applying an analysis of access patterns (Hillier and Hanson 1984; Foster 1989; Moore 1992; Ferguson 1996; Blanton 1995) to a sample of prehispanic Maya royal compounds. The Palace at Palenque, the Central Acropolis at Tikal, and the Acropolis at Uaxactun are contrasted with similar data fromUxmal, Labna, Kabah, and Sayil. The study of access patterns...

  12. CHAPTER EIGHT Evidence for the Functions and Meanings of Some Northern Maya Palaces
    (pp. 204-252)
    Jeff Karl Kowalski

    In Maya studies, a long-lived distinction has beenmade between ‘‘palaces,’’ which are typically defined as large, range-type, vaulted masonry multiroom structures, or as architectural groups composed of several such multiroom structures surrounding small plazas or patios, and ‘‘temples,’’ which are smaller structures with more restricted interior space constructed in more inaccessible locations atop high pyramidal substructures (Satterthwaite 1943; Pollock 1965; G. F. Andrews 1975). In their discussion of courtly life, Schele and Miller (1986: 133) suggest that the Maya palace was a place where the sophistication and social complexity of ancient Maya society was perhaps most evident. The large scale...

  13. CHAPTER NINE The Function of a Maya Palace at Yaxuna: A CONTEXTUAL APPROACH
    (pp. 253-273)
    James N. Ambrosino

    In the study of archaeological materials, we commonly find it necessary to classify objects according to similar attributes in order to manage the massive amounts of data available to us. Classification has been fundamental to archaeology since the beginning of the discipline. While classification can be quite useful in organizing information, there remains the nagging question of the meaning or significance behind the resulting classes or types. That is, do the classification schemes imposed on the data by the researcher reflect real phenomena in the past? These schemes tend to be based on formal characteristics of the objects being studied,...

  14. CHAPTER TEN Palace and Society in the Northern Maya Lowlands
    (pp. 274-290)
    Edward B. Kurjack

    The houses of the ancient Maya nobility were carefully made of durable masonry, so some of the structures still stand with their roofs intact. Nineteenth-century explorers referred to these buildings as palaces or castles if the buildings were situated on hilltops. Archaeological surveys encounter hundreds of elite dwellings in various states of collapse, as well as the less substantial remains of ordinary housing. This chapter compares the Maya palace with other kinds of domestic architecture and explores the social significance of their similarities and contrasts.

    Palaces are best understood in the context of the entire range of domestic construction. Maya...

    (pp. 291-314)
    Jessica Joyce Christie

    The purpose of this chapter is to analyze the pattern of a tripartite floor plan in Maya palaces and elite residences of the Late Classic and to showits symbolic significance. Based on comparisons with Classic Maya imagery and ethnohistoric sources, possible functions and uses of these rooms will be reconstructed, as well as the kinds of events that took place in them. This study does not focus on one specific palace-type structure but outlines a pattern observable throughout the Maya area.

    In the last decades, epigraphic studies and iconographic analyses have demonstrated that many Maya images document historical events. Epigraphy...

  16. CHAPTER TWELVE Conclusions
    (pp. 315-336)
    Jessica Joyce Christie

    Given the large amount of data about palaces and elite residences and the multidisciplinary approaches in this volume, the conclusions will attempt to isolate patterns and discuss points of agreement and disagreement among the authors. I do not think that it is possible to identify specific patterns that would apply to all Maya elite residential architecture. Nevertheless, the Maya shared strong enough cultural ties regarding their political and religious systems for their palaces and elite residences to exhibit certain similarities in form and function. At the same time, there was always flexibility and openness to local solutions and changes over...

  17. Index
    (pp. 337-340)