How we dress our bodies—through clothing, footwear, headgear, jewelry, haircuts, and more—is key to the expression of status and identity. This idea was as true for ancient Maya civilization as it is today, yet few studies have centered on what ancient Maya peoples wore and why. In The Adorned Body, Nicholas Carter, Stephen Houston, and Franco Rossi bring together contributions from a wide range of scholars, leading to the first in-depth study of Maya dress in pre-Columbian times.
Incorporating artistic, hieroglyphic, and archaeological sources, this book explores the clothing and ornaments of ancient Maya peoples, systematically examining who wore what, deducing the varied purposes and meanings of dress items and larger ensembles, and determining the methods and materials with which such items were created. Each essay investigates a category of dress—including headgear, pendants and necklaces, body painting, footwear, and facial ornaments—and considers the variations within each of these categories, as well as popular styles and trends through time. The final chapters reveal broader views and comparisons about costume ensembles and their social roles. Shedding new light on the art and archaeology of the ancient Americas, The Adorned Body offers a thorough map of Maya dress that will be of interest to scholars and fashion enthusiasts alike.
Recent research and the release of newly declassified U.S. government documents underscore the importance of reading Guatemala's current history through the lens of 1954. Scholars and researchers who have worked in Guatemala from the 1940s to the present articulate how the coup fits into ethnographic representations of Guatemala. Highlighting the voices of individuals with whom they have lived and worked, the contributors also offer an unmatched understanding of how the events preceding and following the coup played out on the ground.
Contributors are Abigail E. Adams, Richard N. Adams, David Carey Jr., Christa Little-Siebold, Judith M. Maxwell, Victor D. Montejo, June C. Nash, and Timothy J. Smith.
After long weeks of boring, perhaps spoiled sea rations, one of the first things Spaniards sought in the New World was undoubtedly fresh food. Probably they found the local cuisine strange at first, but soon they were sending American plants and animals around the world, eventually enriching the cuisine of many cultures.
Drawing on original accounts by Europeans and native Americans, this pioneering work offers the first detailed description of the cuisines of the Aztecs, the Maya, and the Inca. Sophie Coe begins with the basic foodstuffs, including maize, potatoes, beans, peanuts, squash, avocados, tomatoes, chocolate, and chiles, and explores their early history and domestication. She then describes how these foods were prepared, served, and preserved, giving many insights into the cultural and ritual practices that surrounded eating in these cultures. Coe also points out the similarities and differences among the three cuisines and compares them to Spanish cooking of the period, which, as she usefully reminds us, would seem as foreign to our tastes as the American foods seemed to theirs. Written in easily digested prose, America's First Cuisines will appeal to food enthusiasts as well as scholars.
The title of Edmonson's work refers to the Mayan custom of first predicting their history and then living it, and it may be that no other peoples have ever gone so far in this direction. The Book of Chilam Balam was a sacred text prepared by generations of Mayan priests to record the past and to predict the future. The official prophet of each twenty-year rule was the Chilam Balam, or Spokesman of the Jaguar—the Jaguar being the supreme authority charged with converting the prophet's words into fact.
This is a literal but poetic translation of one of fourteen known manuscripts in Yucatecan Maya on ritual and history. It pictures a world of all but incredible numerological order, slowly yielding to Christianity and Spanish political pressure but never surrendering. In fact, it demonstrates the surprising truth of a secret Mayan government during the Spanish rule, which continued to collect tribute in the names of the ruined Classic cities and preserved the essence of the Mayan calendar as a legacy for the tradition's modern inheritors.
The history of the Yucatecan Maya from the seventh to the nineteenth century is revealed. And this is history as the Maya saw it—of a people concerned with lords and priests, with the cosmology which justified their rule, and with the civil war which they perceived as the real dimension of the colonial period.
A work of both history and literature, the Tizimin presents a great deal of Mayan thought, some of which has been suspected but not previously documented. Edmonson's skillful reordering of the text not only makes perfect historical sense but also resolves the long-standing problem of correlating the two colonial Mayan calendars. The book includes both interpretative and literal translations, as well as the Maya parallel couplets and extensive annotations on each page. The beauty of the sacred text is illuminated by the literal translation, while both versions unveil the magnificent historical, philosophical, and social traditions of the most sophisticated native culture in the New World.
The prophetic history of the Tizimin creates a portrait of the continuity and vitality, of the ancient past and the foreordained future of the Maya.
Ancient Maya Commerce presents nearly two decades of multidisciplinary research at Chunchucmil, Yucatan, Mexico—a thriving Classic period Maya center organized around commercial exchange rather than agriculture. An urban center without a king and unable to sustain agrarian independence, Chunchucmil is a rare example of a Maya city in which economics, not political rituals, served as the engine of growth. Trade was the raison d’être of the city itself.
Using a variety of evidence—archaeological, botanical, geomorphological, and soil-based—contributors show how the city was a major center for both short- and long-distance trade, integrating the Guatemalan highlands, the Gulf of Mexico, and the interior of the northern Maya lowlands. By placing Chunchucmil into the broader context of emerging research at other Maya cities, the book reorients the understanding of ancient Maya economies. The book is accompanied by a highly detailed digital map that reveals the dense population of the city and the hundreds of streets its inhabitants constructed to make the city navigable, shifting the knowledge of urbanism among the ancient Maya.
Ancient Maya Commerce is a pioneering, thoroughly documented case study of a premodern market center and makes a strong case for the importance of early market economies in the Maya region. It will be a valuable addition to the literature for Mayanists, Mesoamericanists, economic anthropologists, and environmental archaeologists.
Contributors: Anthony P. Andrews, Traci Ardren, Sheryl Luzzadder-Beach, Timothy Beach, Chelsea Blackmore, Tara Bond-Freeman, Bruce H. Dahlin, Patrice Farrell, David Hixson, Socorro Jimenez, Justin Lowry, Aline Magnoni, Eugenia Mansell, Daniel E. Mazeau, Travis Stanton, Ryan V. Sweetwood, Richard E. Terry
Much of what we currently know about the ancient Maya concerns the activities of the elites who ruled the societies and left records of their deeds carved on the monumental buildings and sculptures that remain as silent testimony to their power and status. But what do we know of the common folk who labored to build the temple complexes and palaces and grew the food that fed all of Maya society?
This pathfinding book marshals a wide array of archaeological, ethnohistorical, and ethnographic evidence to offer the fullest understanding to date of the lifeways of ancient Maya commoners. Senior and emerging scholars contribute case studies that examine such aspects of commoner life as settlement patterns, household organization, and subsistence practices. Their reports cover most of the Maya area and the entire time span from Preclassic to Postclassic. This broad range of data helps resolve Maya commoners from a faceless mass into individual actors who successfully adapted to their social environment and who also held primary responsibility for producing the food and many other goods on which the whole Maya society depended.
A study of Maya dental modification from archaeological sites spanning three millennia.
Dental modification was common across ancient societies, but perhaps none were more avid practitioners than the Maya. They filed their teeth flat or pointy, polished and drilled them, and crafted decorative inlays of jade and pyrite. Unusually, Maya of all social classes, ages, and professions engaged in dental modification. What did it mean to them?
Ancient Maya Teeth is the most comprehensive study of Maya dental modification ever published, based on thousands of teeth recovered from 130 sites spanning three millennia. Esteemed archaeologist Vera Tiesler sifts the evidence, much of it gathered with her own hands and illustrated here with more than a hundred photographs. Exploring the underlying theory and practice of dental modification, Tiesler raises key questions. How did modifications vary across the individual’s lifespan? What tools were used? How did the Maya deal with pain—and malpractice? How did they keep their dentitions healthy, functioning, and beautiful? What were the relationships among gender, social identity, and particular dental-modification choices? Addressing these and other issues, Ancient Maya Teeth reveals how dental-modification customs shifted over the centuries, indexing other significant developments in Mayan cultural history.
A growing interest in all things Maya brings an increasing number of visitors to prehistoric Maya ruins and contemporary Maya communities in Guatemala, Belize, El Salvador, western Honduras, the Yucatán Peninsula, and the southern areas of Chiapas and Tabasco, Mexico. For these visitors and indeed everyone with an interest in the Maya, this field guide highlights nearly 100 species of plants and animals that were significant to the ancient Maya and that continue to inhabit the Maya region today.
Drawing from the disciplines of biology, ecology, and anthropology, Victoria Schlesinger describes each plant or animal's habitat and natural history, identifying characteristics (also shown in a black-and-white drawing), and cultural significance to the ancient and contemporary Maya. An introductory section explains how to use the book and offers a concise overview of the history, lifeways, and cosmology of the ancient Maya. The concluding section describes the collapse of ancient Maya society and briefly traces the history of the Maya region from colonial times to the present.
Anthropology and History in Yucatán is a collection of ten essays that offer new evidence and interpretations of the survival and adaptation of lowland Maya culture from its earliest contact with the Spanish to the 1970s. These case studies reflect a growing interest in the use of historical approaches in the development of models of cultural change that will integrate archaeological, historical, and ethnographic data.
The portrait of the Maya emerging from this collection is that of a remarkably vital people who have skillfully resisted total incorporation with their neighbors and who continue even today to emphasize their cultural independence and historical uniqueness. In his introduction, Grant D. Jones synthesizes previous studies of the anthropological history of Yucatán and summarizes the theoretical issues underlying the volume. Section I, which focuses on continuity and change in the boundaries of Maya ethnicity in Yucatán, includes contributions by the late Sir Eric Thompson, France V. Scholes, and O. Nigel Bolland. Section II presents comparative regional perspectives of Maya adaptations to external forces of change and contains essays by D. E. Dumond, Grant D. Jones, James W. Ryder, and Anne C. Collins. In the closing section, three articles, by Victoria Reifler Bricker, Allan F. Burns, and Irwin Press, treat Maya concepts of their own history.
Throughout the book, the authors demonstrate that models far more complex than Robert Redfield’s folk-urban continuum must be developed to account for the great regional variations in responses by the Maya to the pressures of economic, cultural, and political control as exerted by Spanish, Mexican, Guatemalan, and British authorities over the past four centuries. The essays demonstrate a variety of methodological approaches that will be of interest to historians, ethnohistorians, ethnologists, archaeologists, and those who have a general interest in the survival of Maya culture.
The Pacific coast and southern highlands of Chiapas and Guatemala is a region significant to debates about the origins of social complexity, interaction, and colonialism. The area, however, has received uneven attention and much of what we know is largely restricted to the Preclassic period. This theoretically eclectic volume presents greater temporal coverage, is geographically unified, and engages some of the most important questions of each period through a discussion of the archaeology of identity.
Chapters range from traditional assessments of identity to discussion of practice and relational personhood; all share a concern for how archaeology and ethnohistory provide opportunities and challenges in the reconstruction of identities. The region is one with a multifaceted history of interactions between local populations and those from other parts of Mesoamerica. Linguistic diversity, landscape, and artistic representations have added to the complexities of understanding identity formation here. Rather than providing a unified voice on the issues, Archaeology and Identity on the Pacific Coast and Southern Highlands of Mesoamerica is a dialogue presented through case studies, one that will hopefully encourage future research in this complex and little understood region of Mesoamerica.
Scientists have long speculated on the impact of extreme natural catastrophes on human societies. Archeology and Volcanism in Central America provides dramatic evidence of the effects of several volcanic disasters on a major civilization of the Western Hemisphere, that of the Maya.
During the past 2,000 years, four volcanic eruptions have taken place in the Zapotitán Valley of southern El Salvador. One, the devastating eruption of Ilopango around A.D. 300, forced a major migration, pushing the Mayan people north to the Yucatán Peninsula. Although later eruptions did not have long-range implications for cultural change, one of the subsequent eruptions preserved the Cerén site—a Mesoamerican Pompeii where the bodies of the villagers, the palm-thatched roofs of their houses, the pots of food in their pantries, even the corn plants in their fields were preserved with remarkable fidelity.
Throughout 1978, a multidisciplinary team of anthropologists, archeologists, geologists, biologists, and others sponsored by the University of Colorado's Protoclassic Project researched and excavated the results of volcanism in the Zapotitan Valley—a key Mesoamerican site that contemporary political strife has since rendered inaccessible.
The result is an outstanding contribution to our understanding of the impact of volcanic eruptions on early Mayan civilization. These investigations clearly demonstrate that the Maya inhabited this volcanically hazardous valley in order to reap the short-term benefits that the volcanic ash produced—fertile soil, fine clays, and obsidian deposits.
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