The Ancient Maya: New Perspectives
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"Comprehensive…clearly written…Highly recommended."—Choice
Temples lost in the rainforest. Strange inscriptions and ritual bloodletting. Such are the images popularly associated with the ancient Maya of Central America. But who really were the people of this lost civilization? How and why did their culture achieve regional dominance? Could such pressing contemporary problems as climate change and environmental degradation hold the key to the collapse of Maya civilization?
Of interest to scholars and general readers alike, The Ancient Maya brings the controversies that have divided experts on the ancient Maya to a wider audience. Heather McKillop examines the debates concerning Mayan hieroglyphs, the Maya economy, and the conflicting theories behind the enigmatic collapse of the Maya civilization. The most readable and accessible work in the field, this book brings the general reader up to date with the latest archaeological evidence.
and architecture as well as links to related websites. Information about Maya sites and Maya archaeology is widely available from many other websites, but the viewer must exercise judgment about the scientific quality of secondary sources not prepared by Maya archaeologists. Field Schools There are opportunities for students and volunteers to participate in excavations at Maya sites as part of archaeological field schools offered through universities with Maya archaeologists, through various
done by Payson Sheets. There was also the Chases’ research at Caracol, Norman Hammond and Gair Tourtellot’s project at La Milpa, and Stephen Houston and David Webster’s research at Piedras Negras. Innumerable other projects have been carried out that provide significant insights into our understanding of the ancient Maya. Projects in the upper Belize River valley include Paul Healy’s excavations at Pacbitun, Jaime Awe’s investigations of Middle Preclassic pottery and architecture at Cahal Pech,
Shaw investigated Kichpanha. One of the longerrunning field programs has been Payson Sheets’s investigations of Ceren, initially discovered and excavated in the 1970s, with excavations continuing after the conclusion of the civil war in El Salvador. Perhaps no other Maya site has provided so much in situ preserved evidence of everyday life than El Ceren, which was covered suddenly, and therefore well preserved, by a volcanic eruption (Sheets 2002). In the Yucatan, Susan Kepecs carried out
Preclassic Period in the Maya Lowlands (700–300 B.C.) Discoveries of early monumental architecture at Nakbe have pushed back in time the origins of social complexity that led to the rise of Maya civilization in the southern Maya lowlands. The large size of the buildings at Nakbe indicates a growing economic and social differentiation in society in which the elite were able to manipulate the masses to build significant public works and to otherwise support and sustain the elite. Richard Hansen
within the city wall as well as carrying out excavations in the monumental architecture. The high density of settlement within the wall at Mayapan contrasts to other cities, but of course most predate this late Maya city. The relationship between walled cities and community patterning may become more of of a focus of study, as more walled cities are excavated, such as Chunchucmil. Caves Subterranean caves are a ubiquitous feature in the karstic topography of the Maya lowlands. Perhaps because of