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An Ancient Maya Farming Community

Cynthia Robin

Publication Year: 2012

The farming community of Chan thrived for over twenty centuries, surpassing the longevity of many larger Maya urban centers. Between 800 BC and 1200 AD it was a major food production center, and this collection of essays reveals the important role played by Maya farmers in the development of ancient Maya society.

Chan offers a synthesis of compelling and groundbreaking discoveries gathered over ten years of research at this one archaeological site in Belize. The contributors develop three central themes, which structure the book. They examine how sustainable farming practices maintained the surrounding forest, allowing the community to exist for two millennia. They trace the origins of elite Maya state religion to the complex religious belief system developed in small communities such as Chan. Finally, they describe how the group-focused political strategies employed by local leaders differed from the highly hierarchical strategies of the Classic Maya kings in their large cities.

In breadth, methodology, and findings, this volume scales new heights in the study of Maya society and culture.

Published by: University Press of Florida


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pp. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. 2-7


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pp. 8-9

List of Figures

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pp. 10-11

List of Tables

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pp. 12-13


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pp. 14-15


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pp. 16-21

1. Introducing the Chan Site: Farmers in Complex Societies

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pp. 22-37

Part 1. Time, Space, and Landscapes

2. A Changing Cultural Landscape: Settlement Survey and GIS at Chan

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pp. 40-62

3. Ceramics and Chronology at Chan

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pp. 63-91

4. Agricultural Practices at Chan: Farming and Political Economy in an Ancient Maya Community

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pp. 92-109

5. Agroforestry and Agricultural Production of the Ancient Maya at Chan

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pp. 110-131

Part 2. Life in a Farming Community Center

6. Ritual in a Farming Community

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pp. 134-153

7. Nonroyal Governance at Chan’s Community Center

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pp. 154-170

8. “Empty” Spaces and Public Places: A Microscopic View of Chan’s Late Classic West Plaza

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pp. 171-191

Part 3. Diversity across the Chan Community

9. Recognizing Difference in Small-Scale Settings: An Examination of Social Identity Formation at the Northeast Group, Chan

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pp. 194-212

10. Organization of Chert Tool Economy during the Late and Terminal Classic Periods at Chan: Preliminary Thoughts Based upon Debitage Analyses

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pp. 213-227

11. Limestone Quarrying and Household Organization at Chan

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pp. 228-249

Part 4. Bodies, Material Culture, and Meaning

12. The Chan Community: A Bioarchaeological Perspective

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pp. 252-273

13. Creating Community with Shell

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pp. 274-291

14. Obsidian Acquisition, Trade, and Regional Interaction at Chan

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pp. 292-309

15. Contextualizing Ritual Behavior: Caches, Burials, and Problematical Deposits from Chan’s Community Center

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pp. 310-329

Part 5. Conclusion

16. Learning from an Ancient Maya Farming Community

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pp. 332-363


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pp. 364-403

List of Contributors

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pp. 404-407


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pp. 408-414

E-ISBN-13: 9780813043517
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813039831
Print-ISBN-10: 0813039835

Page Count: 416
Illustrations: 21 tables, 67 b&w figures
Publication Year: 2012

OCLC Number: 793193116
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Chan

Research Areas


Subject Headings

  • Mayas -- Agriculture -- Belize River Valley (Guatemala and Belize).
  • Mayas -- Land tenure -- Belize River Valley (Guatemala and Belize).
  • Mayas -- Belize River Valley (Guatemala and Belize) -- Antiquities.
  • Excavations (Archaeology) -- Belize River Valley (Guatemala and Belize).
  • Belize River Valley (Guatemala and Belize) -- Antiquities.
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