From 400 BC to AD 250, the southern Maya region was one of the most remarkable civilizations of the ancient Americas. Filled with great cities linked by flourishing long-distance trade, shared elite ideologies, and a vibrant material culture, this region was pivotal not only for the Maya but for Mesoamerica as a whole. Although it has been of great interest to scholars, gaps in the knowledge have led to debate on the most vital questions about the southern region.
Recent research has provided a wealth of broadly based new data that have expanded the understanding of this region and its influence on greater Mesoamerica. In The Southern Maya in the Late Preclassic, prominent contributors debate whether the southern region was indeed "Maya" or instead a region of intense multiethnic interaction, with speakers of many languages and many sources of identity. The chapters address a host of advanced developments to which this area can lay claim--urbanism and city-states, the earliest Maya writing, and the origin of the Maya calendar--as well as additional issues including the construction of social and cultural identities, economic networks of early complex societies, relationships between the Maya and the Olmec, and a comprehensive discussion of the ancient city of Kaminaljuyu and its relationship to other cities in the region.