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Ruins of the Past

Ruins of the Past: The Use and Perception of Abandoned Structures in the Maya Lowlands

Travis W. Stanton
Aline Magnoni
FOREWORD BY Wendy Ashmore
Copyright Date: 2008
Pages: 384
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  • Book Info
    Ruins of the Past
    Book Description:

    From the Preclassic to the present, Maya peoples have continuously built, altered, abandoned, and re-used structures, imbuing them with new meanings at each transformation. Ruins of the Past is the first volume to focus on how previously built structures in the Maya Lowlands were used and perceived by later peoples, exploring the topic through concepts of landscape, place, and memory. The collection, as Wendy Ashmore points out in her foreword, offers "a stimulating, productive, and fresh set of inferences about ancient Maya cognition of their own past." Contributors include Anthony P. Andrews, Ana Lucía Arroyave Prera, Antonio Benavides C., M. Kathryn Brown, Marcello A. Canuto, Mark B. Child, David A. Freidel, James F. Garber, Charles W. Golden, Stanley P. Guenter, Jon B. Hageman, Richard D. Hansen, Brett A. Houk, Wayne K. Howell, Paul Hughbanks, Scott R. Hutson, Aline Magnoni, T. Kam Manahan, Olivia C. Navarro Farr, Travis W. Stanton, Lauren A. Sullivan, and Fred Valdez Jr.

    eISBN: 978-1-60732-003-6
    Subjects: Sociology, Archaeology, Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Figures
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Foreword
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
    Wendy Ashmore

    It’s a funny thing, really. The themes underlying this volume have been around for some time, but no one has put them together in quite this way. The time is right, and the result is a stimulating, productive, and fresh set of inferences about ancient Maya cognitions of their own past.

    This volume breaks new ground in seeking indicators of perceptions of the past and remembrance in past times, specifically among the ancient Maya. Such subjects have begun to garner archaeological attention in various parts of the planet, frequently cited as the study of “the past in the past.” Prominent...

  5. Note on Use of Accents
    (pp. xvii-xx)
  6. CHAPTER ONE Places of Remembrance: The Use and Perception of Abandoned Structures in the Maya Lowlands
    (pp. 1-24)
    Travis W. Stanton and Aline Magnoni

    Issues of identity, power, and tradition, among other important themes of social inquiry, are inextricably tied to the individual’s or society’s perception of the past. As Connerton (1989) has noted, the experience of the present is largely dependent on the knowledge of the past. The recent work of Bradley (1987, 1993, 1994, 1998) and others (Driscoll 1998; Foxhall 1995; Geary 1994; Hingley 1996; King 1996; Petts 2002; Richards 1996; Roymans 1995; Umberger 1996; Van Dyke and Alcock 2003a; Williams 1997, 1998; see also Bowie 1974; Morgan 1983) has made this point abundantly clear and opened the investigation of ancient cultural...

  7. CHAPTER TWO Forgotten Structures, Haunted Houses, and Occupied Hearts: Ancient Perspectives and Contemporary Interpretations of Abandoned Sites and Buildings in the Mirador Basin, Guatemala
    (pp. 25-64)
    Richard D. Hansen, Wayne K. Howell and Stanley P. Guenter

    When considering how the ancient Maya perceived and utilized the structures and landscapes that were shaped and then abandoned by their ancestors, the Mirador Basin of the northern Petén, Guatemala (Figure 1.1), is a critical area to consider, as it offers a nearly 2,500-year record of such behavior. Yet to address the concept of “perception,” a notion that requires an attempt to enter the emic (or native) “mind” of the ancient Maya, it is necessary to take the (perilous) step beyond the theoretical models offered by traditional and processual archaeology and employ the interpretive model commonly referred to as “cognitive...

  8. CHAPTER THREE The Transformation of Abandoned Architecture at Piedras Negras
    (pp. 65-90)
    Mark B. Child and Charles W. Golden

    Anthropologists have long recognized that the built environment is culturally meaningful and can easily point out the ways in which architecture, and the spaces it defines, are dynamic constituents and loci of social memory, political discourse, religious community, and social life more generally (Geertz 1973; Lawrence and Low 1990; Rapoport 1990). Yet even when we focus on the dynamics of human movements through architectural spaces and places, archaeologists often speak in static, functional terms. Thus a building may be defined as a “royal palace” or a “sweatbath” and the structure atop a pyramid as a sacrosanct “temple.” A building may...

  9. CHAPTER FOUR Structure Abandonment and Landscape Transformation: Examples from the Three Rivers Region
    (pp. 91-112)
    Lauren A. Sullivan, Jon B. Hageman, Brett A. Houk, Paul Hughbanks and Fred Valdez Jr.

    Studies of landscape (e.g., Brady and Ashmore 1999; Stanton and Freidel 2005) and social organization (e.g., Fowler and Hageman 2004; Gillespie 2000b; Joyce 2000; McAnany 1995) have recently become prominent in Maya archaeology. Thomas (2001) has suggested that the former is an embodiment of the latter, in that landscape can be considered the result of practices and relations conducted as part of the reproduction of social organization. Taking this idea a step further, Bradley (2002) has examined the relationship between a society’s perception of its past and the modification of its landscape. A lived landscape represents the interpersonal relations that...

  10. CHAPTER FIVE Manipulating Memory in the Wake of Dynastic Decline at El Perú-Waka’: Termination Deposits at Abandoned Structure M13-1
    (pp. 113-146)
    Olivia C. Navarro Farr, David A. Freidel and Ana Lucía Arroyave Prera

    Like other descendants of ancient civilizations, the lowland Maya today occupy a world in ruins, with temples, palaces, pyramids, and platforms so worn and naturalized as to be familiar but still haunting, strange, and, perhaps for some, even sacred. The Precolumbian city-dwelling Maya also inhabited such a world, one in which past ruins were perhaps even more palpably part of the reality of the living. Sometimes the evidence of veneration and reuse is quite spectacular, as in the case of the Postclassic priests who tunneled into the shrine heart of the Temple of the Seven Dolls at Dzibilchaltún discovered by...

  11. CHAPTER SIX Establishing and Reusing Sacred Place: A Diachronic Perspective from Blackman Eddy, Belize
    (pp. 147-170)
    M. Kathryn Brown and James F. Garber

    In this chapter we examine broad patterns of construction, reuse, and rebuilding in the architectural sequence of Str. B1, Blackman Eddy, Belize. The construction history of Str. B1 spans over 2,000 years and exhibits a long sequence of architectural rebuilding episodes. This sequence provides a diachronic framework that can be used to examine the importance of establishing and terminating sacred place in the Maya lowlands. We contend that the Maya acts of ritually establishing and terminating sacred places heavily impacted the perception of these locations before and after they were abandoned. The Blackman Eddy data provide an excellent example of...

  12. CHAPTER SEVEN Anatomy of a Post-Collapse Society: Identity and Interaction in Early Postclassic Copán
    (pp. 171-192)
    T. Kam Manahan

    The Copán Valley has been the locus of human settlement since at least the Middle Formative (1000–300 B.C.) and probably earlier (W. Fash 2001; Gordon 1898; Longyear 1948). While almost all settlement visible today within the valley floor dates to Copán’s Late Classic Coner-phase (A.D. 600–900) florescence, excavations within elite residential compounds such as the Scribe’s Palace (Group 9N-8) have revealed occupational sequences spanning millennia (W. Fash 2001; Webster, Fash, and Abrams 1986). People’s perceptions of, and interactions with, earlier architecture and monuments manifested themselves in diverse ways during the Late Classic within the site center. One poignant...

  13. CHAPTER EIGHT Landscape Transformations and Changing Perceptions at Chunchucmil, Yucatán
    (pp. 193-222)
    Aline Magnoni, Scott R. Hutson and Travis W. Stanton

    People’s experience of space and hence of landscape depends on how they interpret the world around them (Brück 1998; B. Knapp and Ashmore 1999). Through the process of living and dwelling, people continually create, transform, experience, and imbue their surroundings with meaning, which in turn influences the behavior of those who inhabit those surroundings (Ingold 2000; J. Thomas 1993). Thus social landscapes simultaneously transform and are transformed by human action (Gosden and Head 1994). Yet while the perception and construction of landscapes are panhuman processes, the perceptions and constructions of landscapes are highly variable. Landscapes are perceived in ways that...

  14. CHAPTER NINE Edzná: A Lived Place through Time
    (pp. 223-256)
    Antonio Benavides C.

    The ruins of the ancient city of Edzná are located in northwestern Campeche, Mexico, sixty km from Campeche, the capital of the state (Figure 9.1). Over the last several decades investigations of this site have allowed for a better understanding of the organization and development of the Precolumbian society that brought it to life. From these studies we can approach the question of how the ancient inhabitants of Edzná perceived this place and its ruins over its many centuries of occupation. Yet perception of the ruins we today call Edzná did not end with the final abandonment of the site...

  15. CHAPTER TEN Memories, Meanings, and Historical Awareness: Post-Abandonment Behaviors among the Lowland Maya
    (pp. 257-274)
    Marcello A. Canuto and Anthony P. Andrews

    There are few more self-referential enterprises in archaeology than the study of the reuse of abandoned structures. The overlap between the “reuse of abandoned structures” as a research question in archaeology and as archaeological research itself renders the topic tricky, although fruitful. As a consequence, it lends itself to a continuum of approaches that range from processual behavioralism to sociosemiotic and cognitive studies to self-referential postmodernism. The topic should therefore provide fertile ground for archaeologists of different stripes. Nevertheless, their divergent theoretical inclinations notwithstanding, archaeologists have shared an unflattering preconception about the reuse of abandoned structures. Since archaeological research designs...

  16. Afterword
    (pp. 275-280)
    Denise Fay Brown

    The relationship between time and place, scales of analysis, and positionality all figure into a rich academic dialogue about spatiality. The contributors to this volume have isolated and problematized a key notion in understanding Maya spaces of the past, that of “abandonment”—a concept essential to the definition of ruins and therefore to archaeology as a discipline.

    Abandonment is also closely tied to widely held conventional understandings of the Maya because of the enigma of their civilization’s “collapse” and the widespread curiosity surrounding Maya cities in ruins. A concept of linear time is embedded in these places, and the ruins...

  17. References Cited
    (pp. 281-352)
  18. Contributors
    (pp. 353-360)
  19. Index
    (pp. 361-364)