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Utatlán: The Constituted Community of the K'iche' Maya of Q'umarkaj

Thomas F. Babcock
Copyright Date: 2012
Pages: 400
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  • Book Info
    Book Description:

    One of the most important Postclassic cities, Utatlán, in highland Guatemala, was excavated more than three decades ago. However, the data amassed by archaeologists have not been published until now. Details on architecture, pottery, burials, and artifacts, along with a focus on residential archaeology, make Utatlán: The Constituted Community of the K'iche' Maya of Q'umarkaj a significant contribution to Maya archaeology.   Most information available on Utatlán focuses on the ceremonial center and ignores the city of the commoners. Using the archaeological data, Utatlán attempts to determine the boundaries of the community and to characterize subdivisions within it. Evidence of indigenous nonelite houses, rich burials, and grave goods unlike those found in contemporary sites reveals information about the supporting residence zone. In addition, Babcock applies the concept of "constituted community," interpreting the archaeological data from a prehistoric context, and proposes a theoretical framework for interpreting prehistoric sites with respect to urbanism and political complexity.   Utatlán: The Constituted Community of the K'iche' Maya of Q'umarkaj will be of interest to students and scholars of Mesoamerican anthropology, archaeology, and ethnohistory.

    eISBN: 978-1-60732-155-2
    Subjects: Sociology, Archaeology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Figures
    (pp. ix-xiv)
  4. List of Maps
    (pp. xv-xvi)
  5. List of Tables
    (pp. xvii-xviii)
  6. Foreword
    (pp. xix-xxii)
    Robert M. Carmack

    Dr. Babcock has provided a brilliant interpretation of the Utatlán archaeological site, located in the central highlands of Guatemala. Utatlán (also known in the Maya K’iche’ language as Q’umarkaj) is for diverse reasons one of the most important Late Postclassic sites in Mesoamerica. Perhaps most salient is the fact that the Popol Wuj, one of the foremost documents on Mayan history, was in the possession of the K’iche’ Maya elite residing at the site, who employed it as an expression of their legendary kingdom. Following the Spanish invasion of the territory that later became Guatemala, descendants of the Utatlán rulers...

  7. Preface
    (pp. xxiii-xxvi)
  8. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xxvii-xxxii)
  9. 1 The Greater Utatlán Project: A Constituted Community of a Late Postclassic Maya Capital
    (pp. 1-26)

    Hernando Cortes with his small army and native Indian allies conquered the Aztec in AD 1521, after which he received delegations from the indigenous groups in the Mayan regions. Cortes wrote to inform Emperor Charles V that he had sent Spanish and native delegates to the Pacific coastal areas 200 leagues distant from Tenochtitlán to learn about the towns of which he had heard, towns called Uclaclan and Guatemala (Mackie 1924: 12). The representatives returned to Cortes with more than 100 inhabitants of those cities, who, Cortes reports, pledged loyalty to the emperor. Thereafter, however, word was received that the...

  10. 2 Greater Utatlán and Q’umarkaj in Highland Guatemala
    (pp. 27-56)

    The movement of the K’iche’ Maya to the highlands of Guatemala has been described in Chapter 1. As reconstructed by Carmack, following the collapse of Chichén Itzá, the Chontal-Nahua warriors followed the Rio Usumacinta to the Rio Negro and Rio Agua Caliente, crossing the Sierra de Chuacas and entering the Quiche Basin (Carmack 1981: 44–47). Map 2.1 orients the reader for the discussion to follow. This figure depicts that portion of the highlands between the Sierra de los Cuchumatanes to the north, Lake Atitlán to the south, the Quezaltenango Basin to the west, and the vicinity of Guatemala City...

  11. 3 Methodology
    (pp. 57-84)

    Archaeological investigations in the Utatlán residence zone were constrained by the natural setting of plateaus and barrancas. In addition, the area comprised lands in private, not public, ownership, and permission of the landowners was required to carry out excavations. Not all landowners allowed this, because of a perceived direct threat to the economic resources on the land (orchards, milpas, cow paths, and structures), the nature of archaeological projects in general, or concerns about working or interacting with outsiders. This was a period of building civil unrest in highland Guatemala, which seriously affected the lives of the Santa Cruz del Quiché...

  12. 4 Northern Peripheral Plateaus
    (pp. 85-104)

    Occupational debris was said to cover 4 km² of the plateau top within a 7 km² area centered on Q’umarkaj (Fox 1978b: 32). The plateaus north of Q’umarkaj, though considered to be less densely nucleated than the zone closest to the ceremonial center, were included in this potential residential zone of Greater Utatlán (Wallace 1977). They are contiguous with those extending east from Q’umarkaj. To reach them, one turns north at the head of the barranca between Pakaman and Resguardo and then back to the west. The spurs of land labeled Y-Plateau, La Rochela, and Chisalin, in that order, each...

  13. 5 Resguardo Area
    (pp. 105-142)

    In 1841, John Lloyd Stephens walked out from Santa Cruz del Quiché toward the ruins of Utatlán.

    At about a mile from the village we came to a range of elevations extending to a great distance, and connected by a ditch, which had evidently formed the line of fortifications for the ruined city. They consisted of the remains of stone buildings, probably towers, the stones well cut and laid together, and the mass of rubbish abounded in flint arrow-heads. Within this line was an elevation which grew more imposing as we approached, square, with terraces, and having in the centre...

  14. 6 The Resguardo-Pakaman Ridge
    (pp. 143-176)

    Proceeding out from Q’umarkaj, past Resguardo, the road/ditch feature appears to separate the plateau area closest to the ceremonial center from that beyond at a location where the topography funnels traffic toward a defensible isthmus between Resguardo and the barranca to the north. A preliminary survey by Fox (n.d.) indicated the presence of a mound on the slopes of a basin-like area that forms the northern portion of this plateau. A concentration of obsidian had also been reported nearby (Fox, Wallace, and Brown 1992). The mound and obsidian areas will be considered separately, although portions of the basin were included...

  15. 7 Hillside Mound and Area of Obsidian Scatter
    (pp. 177-206)

    Midway between Resguardo and Pakaman, in a direct line between them, was a mound on the slope of the basin-like topographic area. Fox (n.d.) commented on the feature, noting it to be the only mound in the area and describing it as unusual because of its location on the hillslope. Actually, it was more like a ledge than a true mound, in that one could walk down the slope and then directly out onto the feature, without having to climb onto it from that direction.

    In the vicinity of the mound, just east and south of it, Fox also reported...

  16. 8 Pakaman Area Excavations
    (pp. 207-228)

    Pakaman is a hilltop complex with a temple, plaza, and associated structures (Fox 1978b: 27–20). Preservation is poor and the façade of the temple has been completely removed. An abandoned adobe structure sits in the middle of the site. Fox (1978b: 38) refers to Pakaman as a “fortified elite residential complex” and notes its location along the road leading to Q’umarkaj. Both he and Carmack (1981: 246) have suggested Pakaman may be the place called Panpetak in the Annals of the Cakchiquels, where K’iq’ab’ fled during an uprising:

    Then all the populace and the heads of the tribes assembled...

  17. 9 La Comunidad
    (pp. 229-238)

    The final area tested in the Utatlán residence zone was La Comunidad. This is the name of an aldea of Santa Cruz del Quiché southeast of the city, but for purposes here it refers to excavation units in an area bounded on the north by a line extending east from the head of the barranca south of Resguardo. There were two destroyed mound features at the head of the barranca, 200 m from Pakaman. Local inhabitants claimed they had been dismantled to facilitate modern tractor plowing of the area. The testing operations followed along the edge of the barranca and...

  18. 10 The Utatlán Residence Zone
    (pp. 239-286)

    As stated in Chapter 1, this volume reports on excavations undertaken to explore the Greater Utatlán residence zone peripheral to the center of Q’umarkaj, which might be considered an integral part of a unified community associated with and supportive of the political and religious center. As such, a first concern is to estimate the geographic limits of the residence zone. Canuto and Fash (2004) applied the conjunctive approach in an interpretation of the archaeological record of the Copán Valley in Honduras. Their focus was on the “constituted community” as a concept to elucidate the “sense of place,” which was a...

  19. 11 Summary and Conclusions
    (pp. 287-318)

    Chapter 1 briefly summarized the interpretive frameworks from which one can develop a perspective on the meanings of an archaeological assemblage, on how one can conceptually organize the recovered data. When the site is a spatially defined community and the materials recovered span a range of cultural activities and human endeavors, then it may be possible to characterize the human interactions represented by the material culture remnants in the broader context of regional archaeological synthesis. It might also be possible to form hypotheses regarding the position of that site with respect to the regional culture. There were several potential topics...

  20. References
    (pp. 319-332)
  21. Index
    (pp. 333-341)