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The Linda Schele Series in Maya and Pre-Columbian Studies

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The Linda Schele Series in Maya and Pre-Columbian Studies

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Ancient Objects and Sacred Realms

Interpretations of Mississippian Iconography

Edited by F. Kent Reilly, III, and James F. Garber

A major reconstruction of the rituals, cosmology, ideology, and political structures of the prehistoric native peoples of the Mississippi River Valley and Southeastern United States.

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Art and Society in a Highland Maya Community

The Altarpiece of Santiago Atitlán

By Allen J. Christenson

A study of a major piece of modern Mayan religious art.

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Death and the Classic Maya Kings

By James L. Fitzsimmons

Like their regal counterparts in societies around the globe, ancient Maya rulers departed this world with elaborate burial ceremonies and lavish grave goods, which often included ceramics, red pigments, earflares, stingray spines, jades, pearls, obsidian blades, and mosaics. Archaeological investigation of these burials, as well as the decipherment of inscriptions that record Maya rulers’ funerary rites, have opened a fascinating window on how the ancient Maya envisaged the ruler’s passage from the world of the living to the realm of the ancestors. Focusing on the Classic Period (AD 250–900), James Fitzsimmons examines and compares textual and archaeological evidence for rites of death and burial in the Maya lowlands, from which he creates models of royal Maya funerary behavior. Exploring ancient Maya attitudes toward death expressed at well-known sites such as Tikal, Guatemala, and Copan, Honduras, as well as less-explored archaeological locations, Fitzsimmons reconstructs royal mortuary rites and expands our understanding of key Maya concepts including the afterlife and ancestor veneration.

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Farming, Hunting, and Fishing in the Olmec World

By Amber M. VanDerwarker

The Olmec who anciently inhabited Mexico's southern Gulf Coast organized their once-egalitarian society into chiefdoms during the Formative period (1400 BC to AD 300). This increase in political complexity coincided with the development of village agriculture, which has led scholars to theorize that agricultural surpluses gave aspiring Olmec leaders control over vital resources and thus a power base on which to build authority and exact tribute. In this book, Amber VanDerwarker conducts the first multidisciplinary analysis of subsistence patterns at two Olmec settlements to offer a fuller understanding of how the development of political complexity was tied to both agricultural practices and environmental factors. She uses plant and animal remains, as well as isotopic data, to trace the intensification of maize agriculture during the Late Formative period. She also examines how volcanic eruptions in the region affected subsistence practices and settlement patterns. Through these multiple sets of data, VanDerwarker presents convincing evidence that Olmec and epi-Olmec lifeways of farming, hunting, and fishing were driven by both political and environmental pressures and that the rise of institutionalized leadership must be understood within the ecological context in which it occurred.

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Lightning Gods and Feathered Serpents

The Public Sculpture of El Tajín

By Rex Koontz

El Tajín, an ancient Mesoamerican capital in Veracruz, Mexico, has long been admired for its stunning pyramids and ballcourts decorated with extensive sculptural programs. Yet the city’s singularity as the only center in the region with such a wealth of sculpture and fine architecture has hindered attempts to place it more firmly in the context of Mesoamerican history. In Lightning Gods and Feathered Serpents, Rex Koontz undertakes the first extensive treatment of El Tajín’s iconography in over thirty years, allowing us to view its imagery in the broader Mesoamerican context of rising capitals and new elites during a period of fundamental historical transformations. Koontz focuses on three major architectural features—the Pyramid of the Niches/Central Plaza ensemble, the South Ballcourt, and the Mound of the Building Columns complex—and investigates the meanings of their sculpture and how these meanings would have been experienced by specific audiences. Koontz finds that the iconography of El Tajín reveals much about how motifs and elite rites growing out of the Classic period were transmitted to later Mesoamerican peoples as the cultures centered on Teotihuacan and the Maya became the myriad city-states of the Early Postclassic period. By reexamining the iconography of sculptures long in the record, as well as introducing important new monuments and contexts, Lightning Gods and Feathered Serpents clearly demonstrates El Tajín’s numerous iconographic connections with other areas of Mesoamerica, while also exploring its roots in an indigenous Gulf lowlands culture whose outlines are only now emerging. At the same time, it begins to uncover a largely ignored regional artistic culture of which Tajín is the crowning achievement.

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Lightning Warrior

Maya Art and Kingship at Quirigua

By Matthew G. Looper

The ancient Maya city of Quirigua occupied a crossroads between Copan in the southeastern Maya highlands and the major centers of the Peten heartland. Though always a relatively small city, Quirigua stands out because of its public monuments, which were some of the greatest achievements of Classic Maya civilization. Impressive not only for their colossal size, high sculptural quality, and eloquent hieroglyphic texts, the sculptures of Quirigua are also one of the few complete, in situ series of Maya monuments anywhere, which makes them a crucial source of information about ancient Maya spirituality and political practice within a specific historical context. Using epigraphic, iconographic, and stylistic analyses, this study explores the integrated political-religious meanings of Quirigua’s monumental sculptures during the eighth-century A.D. reign of the city’s most famous ruler, K’ak’ Tiliw. In particular, Matthew Looper focuses on the role of stelae and other sculpture in representing the persona of the ruler not only as a political authority but also as a manifestation of various supernatural entities with whom he was associated through ritual performance. By tracing this sculptural program from its Early Classic beginnings through the reigns of K’ak’ Tiliw and his successors, and also by linking it to practices at Copan, Looper offers important new insights into the politico-religious history of Quirigua and its ties to other Classic Maya centers, the role of kingship in Maya society, and the development of Maya art.

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Lord Eight Wind of Suchixtlan and the Heroes of Ancient Oaxaca

Reading History in the Codex Zouche-Nuttall

By Robert Lloyd Williams

In the pre-Hispanic Mesoamerican world, histories and collections of ritual knowledge were often presented in the form of painted and folded books now known as codices, and the knowledge itself was encoded into pictographs. Eight codices have survived from the Mixtec peoples of ancient Oaxaca, Mexico; a part of one of them, the Codex Zouche-Nuttall, is the subject of this book. As a group, the Mixtec codices contain the longest detailed histories and royal genealogies known for any indigenous people in the western hemisphere. The Codex Zouche-Nuttall offers a unique window into how the Mixtecs themselves viewed their social and political cosmos without the bias of western European interpretation. At the same time, however, the complex calendrical information recorded in the Zouche-Nuttall has made it resistant to historical, chronological analysis, thereby rendering its narrative obscure. In this pathfinding work, Robert Lloyd Williams presents a methodology for reading the Codex Zouche-Nuttall that unlocks its essentially linear historical chronology. Recognizing that the codex is a combination of history in the European sense and the timelessness of myth in the Native American sense, he brings to vivid life the history of Lord Eight Wind of Suchixtlan (AD 935–1027), a ruler with the attributes of both man and deity, as well as other heroic Oaxacan figures. Williams also provides context for the history of Lord Eight Wind through essays dealing with Mixtec ceremonial rites and social structure, drawn from information in five surviving Mixtec codices.

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The Maya and Teotihuacan

Reinterpreting Early Classic Interaction

Edited by Geoffrey E. Braswell

The contributors to this volume present extensive new evidence from archaeology, iconography, and epigraphy to offer a more nuanced understanding of the interaction between the Early Classic Maya and Teotihuacan.

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Maya Palaces and Elite Residences

An Interdisciplinary Approach

Edited by Jessica Joyce Christie

Maya "palaces" have intrigued students of this ancient Mesoamerican culture since the early twentieth century, when scholars first applied the term "palace" to multi-room, gallery-like buildings set on low platforms in the centers of Maya cities. Who lived in these palaces? What types of ceremonial and residential activities took place there? How do the physical forms and spatial arrangement of the buildings embody Maya concepts of social organization and cosmology? This book brings together state-of-the-art data and analysis regarding the occupants, ritual and residential uses, and social and cosmological meanings of Maya palaces and elite residences. A multidisciplinary team of senior researchers reports on sites in Belize (Blue Creek), Western Honduras (Copan), the Peten (Tikal, Dos Pilas, Aguateca), and the Yucatan (Uxmal, Chichen-Itza, Dzibilchaltun, Yaxuna). Archaeologist contributors discuss the form of palace buildings and associated artifacts, their location within the city, and how some palaces related to landscape features. Their approach is complemented by art historical analyses of architectural sculpture, epigraphy, and ethnography. Jessica Joyce Christie concludes the volume by identifying patterns and commonalties that apply not only to the cited examples, but also to Maya architecture in general.

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Maya Political Science

Time, Astronomy, and the Cosmos

By Prudence M. Rice

How did the ancient Maya rule their world? Despite more than a century of archaeological investigation and glyphic decipherment, the nature of Maya political organization and political geography has remained an open question. Many debates have raged over models of centralization versus decentralization, superordinate and subordinate status—with far-flung analogies to emerging states in Europe, Asia, and Africa. But Prudence Rice asserts that neither the model of two giant “superpowers” nor that which postulates scores of small, weakly independent polities fits the accumulating body of material and cultural evidence. In this groundbreaking book, Rice builds a new model of Classic lowland Maya (AD 179–948) political organization and political geography. Using the method of direct historical analogy, she integrates ethnohistoric and ethnographic knowledge of the Colonial-period and modern Maya with archaeological, epigraphic, and iconographic data from the ancient Maya. On this basis of cultural continuity, she constructs a convincing case that the fundamental ordering principles of Classic Maya geopolitical organization were the calendar (specifically a 256-year cycle of time known as the may) and the concept of quadripartition, or the division of the cosmos into four cardinal directions. Rice also examines this new model of geopolitical organization in the Preclassic and Postclassic periods and demonstrates that it offers fresh insights into the nature of rulership, ballgame ritual, and warfare among the Classic lowland Maya.

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