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Ancient Maya Political Dynamics

Antonia E. Foias

Publication Year: 2013

Politics dominates the public arena and always has, which is one reason it can provide great insight into the lives of ancient people. Because of the richness and complexity of Maya society, archaeologists and anthropologists have spent decades attempting to reconstruct its political systems.

In Ancient Maya Political Dynamics, Antonia Foias begins by reexamining recent scholarship, placing it within a larger anthropological framework. By taking a cross-cultural approach and bringing in relevant material from other archaeological areas around the world, she breaks new ground and demonstrates how anthropologists worldwide understand and reconstruct ancient political systems.

Foias argues that there is no single Maya political history, but multiple histories, no single Maya state, but multiple polities that need to be understood at the level of the lived experience of individuals. She explores the ways in which the dynamics of political power shaped the lives and landscape of the Maya and how this information can be used to look at other complex societies.

Published by: University Press of Florida


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p. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 2-5


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pp. v-vi

List of Figures

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pp. vii-viii

List of Tables

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pp. ix-x

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pp. xi-xii

Ancient Maya Political Dynamics is a compelling reconstruction of Classic Period Maya politics. While the primary vantage point for discussion is the decade of excavations undertaken at the site of Motul de San José in Guatemala, Antonia Foias also provides comparisons with other archaeologically known polities ...

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pp. xiii-xiv

I would like to thank all the sponsors of the Motul de San José Archaeological Project, including the National Science Foundation (grant number SBR-9905456); the Wenner-Gren Foundation; the Foundation for the Advancement of Mesoamerican Studies, Inc.; Sigma Xi, the Scientific Research Foundation; the Fulbright Scholar Foundation; ...

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1. Introduction

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pp. 1-23

This book grew from a question that I pose to my students and that I asked myself when I began to study anthropology in college: What makes humans behave as they do? Social scientists, philosophers, moralists, political scientists, psychologists, and anthropologists have tried for many centuries to understand what makes humans tick: ...

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2. Political Anthropology, Archaeology, and Ancient Politics

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pp. 24-45

Archaeological studies of political organization draw paradigms, models, and concepts from political anthropology in order to describe, define, and understand ancient politics in a broad cross-cultural perspective (Kurtz 2001; Claessen and Skalnik 1978, 1981; Claessen and van de Velde 1987, 1991; Claessen, van de Velde, and Smith 1985; ...

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3. Archaeological Studies of Ancient Politics

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pp. 46-58

Archaeologists have been interested in political power for many generations (see Trigger 1974). In this chapter, I present archaeological studies from outside the Maya world that focus on ancient politics. The discussion is not meant to be an exhaustive review of the literature, which is extensive, but rather is a review of major trends in archaeological studies ...

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4. Reconstructing Classic Maya Polities: The Macro Scale of Political Analysis

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pp. 59-110

Our interpretations of Classic Maya politics have changed tremendously over the last half-century. Until the 1960s, Maya civilization was conceived as a peaceful Eden dominated by priests who devoted their time to the esoteric arts of calendar-keeping, astronomy-astrology, and mathematics. ...

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5. Internal Dynamics, Bureaucracy, and Political Centralization: The Middle Scale of Political Analysis

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pp. 111-164

In this chapter I explore Classic Maya political dynamics by scrutinizing the internal organization of Maya polities, or the middle scale of political analysis. One of the key variables may be the presence (or absence) of a bureaucracy. The existence of a bureaucracy is tied to the old debate about the degree of centralization in Classic Maya states; ...

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6. The Flow and Use of Power: The Micro Scale of Political Analysis

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pp. 165-219

Up to now, I have considered politics from the perspective of Maya states and their rulers and political elites. This has placed undue emphasis on political power emanating from the top levels of society, or from the political institutions in which individuals interact. But recent scholarship has underscored that power is more fluid and more contingent on actors and situations. ...

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7. Conclusions: Toward an Archaeology of Power

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pp. 220-230

The aim of this work is to present how archaeologists have reconstructed ancient Maya politics during the Classic period, the apogee of this most celebrated pre-Hispanic civilization. I hope that my summary of the various epistemological approaches and bodies of knowledge about this civilization has provided the foundation for further studies and discussions. ...

References Cited

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pp. 231-280


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pp. 281-289

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About the Author, Further Reading

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pp. 305-307

Antonia E. Foias is professor of anthropology at Williams College. She is the coeditor, with Kitty Emery, of Motul de San José: Politics, History, and Economy in a Classic Maya Polity and the coauthor, with Ronald Bishop, of Ceramics, Production, and Exchange in the Petexbatun Region: The Economic Parameters of the Classic Maya Collapse. ...

E-ISBN-13: 9780813048321
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813044224

Page Count: 300
Illustrations: 15 b&w photos, 3 tables
Publication Year: 2013