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Ancient Maya Cities of the Eastern Lowlands

Brett A. Houk

For more than a century researchers have studied Maya ruins, and sites like Tikal, Palenque, Copán, and Chichén Itzá have shaped our understanding of the Maya. Yet the lowlands of Belize, which were once home to a rich urban tradition that persisted and evolved for almost 2,000 years, are treated as peripheral to these great Classic period sites. The hot and humid climate and dense forests are inhospitable and make preservation of the ruins difficult, but this oft-ignored area reveals much about Maya urbanism and culture.

Using data collected from different sites throughout the Maya lowlands, including the Vaca Plateau and the Belize River Valley, Brett Houk presents the first synthesis of these unique monuments and discusses methods for mapping and excavating. Considering the sites through the theoretical lenses of the built environment and ancient urban planning, Houk vividly reconstructs their political history, how they fit into the larger political landscape of the Classic Maya, and how the ancient cities fell apart over time.

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The Ancient Maya Marketplace

The Archaeology of Transient Space

Edited by Eleanor M. King

Trading was the favorite occupation of the Maya, according to early Spanish observers such as Fray Diego de Landa (1566). Yet scholars of the Maya have long dismissed trade—specifically, market exchange—as unimportant. They argue that the Maya subsisted primarily on agriculture, with long-distance trade playing a minor role in a largely non-commercialized economy.

The Ancient Maya Marketplace reviews the debate on Maya markets and offers compelling new evidence for the existence and identification of ancient marketplaces in the Maya Lowlands. Its authors rethink the prevailing views about Maya economic organization and offer new perspectives. They attribute the dearth of Maya market research to two factors: persistent assumptions that Maya society and its rainforest environment lacked complexity, and an absence of physical evidence for marketplaces—a problem that plagues market research around the world.

Many Mayanists now agree that no site was self-sufficient, and that from the earliest times robust local and regional exchange existed alongside long-distance trade. Contributors to this volume suggest that marketplaces, the physical spaces signifying the presence of a market economy, did not exist for purely economic reasons but served to exchange information and create social ties as well.

The Ancient Maya Marketplace offers concrete links between Maya archaeology, ethnohistory, and contemporary cultures. Its in-depth review of current research will help future investigators to recognize and document marketplaces as a long-standing Maya cultural practice. The volume also provides detailed comparative data for premodern societies elsewhere in the world.

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Ancient Maya Political Dynamics

Antonia E. Foias

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.

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Ancient Maya Pottery

Classification, Analysis, and Interpretation

Edited by James John Aimers

The ancient Maya produced a broad range of ceramics that has attracted concerted scholarly attention for over a century. Pottery sherds--the most abundant artifacts recovered from sites--reveal much about artistic expression, religious ritual, economic systems, cooking traditions, and cultural exchange in Maya society.

Today, nearly every Maya archaeologist uses the type-variety classificatory framework for studying sherd collections. This impressive volume brings together many of the archaeologists signally involved in the analysis and interpretation of ancient Maya ceramics and represents new findings and state-of-the-art thinking. The result is a book that serves both as a valuable resource for archaeologists involved in pottery classification, analysis, and interpretation and as an illuminating exploration of ancient Mayan culture.

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Ancient Maya Traders of Ambergris Caye

Written by Thomas H. Guderjan

Archaeologists are unsure exactly when the Maya inhabited the coastal areas of Belize, but ample evidence exists to support an extensive maritime trade network along the coast by A.D. 600 This volume focuses on the maritime trade network sites on Ambergris Caye, Belize where excavations have revealed remnants of very small villages, or camps, along the Caribbean coastline.

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Ancient Muses

Archaeology and the Arts

Edited by John H. Jameson Jr, John E. Ehrenhard, and Christine A. Finn, with con

Known widely in Europe as "interpretive narrative archaeology," the practice of using creative methods to interpret and present current knowledge of the past is gaining popularity in North America. This book is the first compilation of international case studies of the various artistic methods used in this new form of education—one that makes archaeology "come alive" for the nonprofessional. Plays, opera, visual art, stories, poetry, performance dance, music, sculpture, digital imagery—all can effectively communicate archaeological processes and cultural values to public audiences.

The 23 contributors to this volume are a diverse group of archaeologists, educators, and artisans who have direct experience in schools, museums, and at archaeological sites. Citing specific examples, such as the film The English Patient, science fiction mysteries, and hypertext environments, they explain how creative imagination and the power of visual and audio media can personalize, contextualize, and demystify the research process. A 16-page color section illuminates their examples, and an accompanying CD includes relevant videos, music, web sites, and additional color images.



In their Introduction, the editors invoke the ancient muses to inspire the modern presenters and interpreters of archaeological research. They aptly quote George Santayana, from his poem "The Power of Art":


". . . may our hands immortalize the day

When life was sweet, and save from utter death

The sacred past that should not pass away."




John H. Jameson Jr. is an archaeologist and John E. Ehrenhard is Director at the National Park Service's Southeast Archeological Center in Tallahassee, Florida. Christine A. Finn is research associate at the Institute of Archaeology at the University of Oxford in England.

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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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Ancient Paquimé and the Casas Grandes World

Edited by Paul E. Minnis and Michael E. Whalen

Paquimé, the great multistoried pre-Hispanic settlement also known as Casas Grandes, was the center of an ancient region with hundreds of related neighbors. It also participated in massive networks that stretched their fingers through northwestern Mexico and the U.S. Southwest. Paquimé is widely considered one of the most important and influential communities in ancient northern Mexico and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Ancient Paquimé and the Casas Grandes World, edited by Paul E. Minnis and Michael E. Whalen, summarizes the four decades of research since the Amerind Foundation and Charles Di Peso published the results of the Joint Casas Grandes Expeditions in 1974.
 
The Joint Casas Grandes Expedition revealed the extraordinary nature of this site: monumental architecture, massive ball courts, ritual mounds, over a ton of shell artifacts, hundreds of skeletons of multicolored macaw and their pens, copper from west Mexico, and rich political and religious life with Mesoamerican-related images and rituals. Paquimé was not one sole community but was surrounded by hundreds of outlying villages in the region, indicating a zone that sustained thousands of inhabitants and influenced groups much farther afield.
 
In celebration of the Amerind Foundation’s seventieth anniversary, sixteen scholars with direct and substantial experience in Casas Grandes archaeology present nine chapters covering its economy, chronology, history, religion, regional organization, and importance. The two final chapters examine Paquimé in broader geographic perspectives. This volume sheds new light on Casas Grandes/Paquimé, a great town well-adapted to its physical and economic environment that disappeared just before Spanish contact.

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Ancient Plants and People

Contemporary Trends in Archaeobotany

Edited by Marco Madella, Carla Lancelotti, and Manon Savard

Mangroves and rice, six-row brittle barley and einkorn wheat. Ancient crops for prehistoric people. What do they have in common? All tell us about the lives and cultures of long ago, as humans cultivated or collected these plants for food. Exploring these and other important plants used for millennia by humans, Ancient Plants and People presents a wide-angle view of the current state of archaeobotanical research, methods, and theories.

Food has a public and private role, and it permeates the life of all people in a society. Food choice, production, and distribution probably represent the most complex indicators of social life, and thus a study of foods consumed by ancient peoples reveals many clues about their lifestyles. But in addition to yielding information about food production, distribution, preparation, and consumption, plant remains recovered from archaeological sites offer precious insights on past landscapes, human adaptation to climate change, and the relationship between human groups and their environment. Revealing important aspects of past human societies, these plant-driven insights widen the spectrum of information available to archaeologists as we seek to understand our history as a biological and cultural species.

Often answers raise more questions. As a result, archaeobotanists are constantly pushed to reflect on the methodological and theoretical aspects of their discipline. The contributors discuss timely methodological issues and engage in debates on a wide range of topics from plant utilization in hunter-gatherers and agriculturalists to uses of ancient DNA. Ancient Plants and People provides a global perspective on archaeobotanical research, particularly on the sophisticated interplay between the use of plants and their social or environmental context.

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Ancient Wine

The Search for the Origins of Viniculture

Patrick E. McGovern

The history of civilization is, in many ways, the history of wine. This book is the first comprehensive and up-to-date account of the earliest stages of vinicultural history and prehistory, which extends back into the Neolithic period and beyond. Elegantly written and richly illustrated, Ancient Wine opens up whole new chapters in the fascinating story of wine and the vine by drawing upon recent archaeological discoveries, molecular and DNA sleuthing, and the texts and art of long-forgotten peoples.

Patrick McGovern takes us on a personal odyssey back to the beginnings of this consequential beverage when early hominids probably enjoyed a wild grape wine. We follow the course of human ingenuity in domesticating the Eurasian vine and learning how to make and preserve wine some 7,000 years ago. Early winemakers must have marveled at the seemingly miraculous process of fermentation. From success to success, viniculture stretched out its tentacles and entwined itself with one culture after another (whether Egyptian, Iranian, Israelite, or Greek) and laid the foundation for civilization itself. As medicine, social lubricant, mind-altering substance, and highly valued commodity, wine became the focus of religious cults, pharmacopoeias, cuisines, economies, and society. As an evocative symbol of blood, it was used in temple ceremonies and occupies the heart of the Eucharist. Kings celebrated their victories with wine and made certain that they had plenty for the afterlife. (Among the colorful examples in the book is McGovern's famous chemical reconstruction of the funerary feast--and mixed beverage--of "King Midas.") Some peoples truly became "wine cultures."

When we sip a glass of wine today, we recapitulate this dynamic history in which a single grape species was harnessed to yield an almost infinite range of tastes and bouquets. Ancient Wine is a book that wine lovers and archaeological sleuths alike will raise their glasses to.

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