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Demarest-End+of+Classic+Maya+Civ - 10 The end of Classic...

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Unformatted text preview: 10 The end of Classic Maya civilization: collapse, transition, and transformation Since the beginnings of exploration in the Maya lowlands, the “mystery of the collapse” of Classic-period civilization has been a driving force in Maya archaeology. The vision of vast cities with stone temples, palaces, and hieroglyphic monuments abandoned and overgrown by the jungle has come to dominate popular images of archaeology. On a more scholarly level, the issues surrounding the “collapse” of the Classic Maya cities have been the subject of serious study and debate throughout the twentieth century. Probably only the “fall” of the Roman Empire has been cited as often in social theory on the decline of civilizations. There has been, however, little agreement as to the nature of the decline of Classic civilization or its causes. The lack of consensus has been due in part to the incomplete nature of the archaeological record in the critical period of the ninth and tenth centuries. Although much progress has been made in the past twenty years toward filling the gaps in the data, recent symposia and conferences still show little agreement (see bibliographic essay). The most confusing factor may be the great regional variability of Classic Maya civilization and the tendency of scholars to use the events in the subregion of their own studies as the universal model for the decline or the transformation of all of Classic Maya culture. Disagreement also results fitom differences in terminology and epistemology. For that reason, I begin here with a clarification of the terms and concepts involved in addressing this inscrutable, but important, issue in Maya archaeology. Concepts of causality in the decline of civilizations The concept of causality is fraught with philosophical and epistemological problems. Much apparent disagreement in Maya archaeology is simply due to scholars talking about different “levels” of causality. Often, archae— ologists posit “causes” from the data in their particular regions or sites that would have been local proximate causes of the specific kind of culture change observed in that area. Yet such local economic and ecological conditions and regional political events were combined With pan—lowland 240 Collapse, transition, and transformation 241 BASIC CHARACTERISTICS AND STRUCTURE OF THE SOCIETY POTENTIAL FLAWS OR PROBLEMS ROOT CAUSES OF COLLAPSE «A ll” I/I / PROWATE CAUSES OF COLLAPSE EXTERNAL FACTORS \ DIFFERING PROJHMATE CAUSES AND EFFECTS IN EACH REGION I] Figure 10.1 Levels of causality in the decline of civilization problems or processes to generate the specific manifestation of the end of the Classic period political systems in any given area. Furthermore, external factors or events (e.g. foreign intrusion or influence, climatolog— ical factors, etc.) most often affect only a specific region, although some may have been of broader impact. As we shall see, the term “collapse,” with its connotations of traumatic and rapid decline, may only apply to the western Petén kingdoms of the Classic Maya lowlands. Underlying causes of widespread culture change, “ultimate” or “root causes,” could be related to more general problems, flaws, or in Marxist terms, “contradictions” between aspects of the political, economic, or ecological institutions of the society. Such deeper problems relate to the basic characteristics of the society or political system in question and can only be considered “flaws” in the context of specific historical processes or external factors to which the political system fails to respond success— fully (Fig. 10.1). In the case of the Maya, we can try to identify broad characteristics of Late Classic Maya society that led to problems and to counterproductive responses to challenges confronting southern lowland Classic Maya civilization as a whole in the eighth and ninth centuries. The differing (and to appearances, contradictory) manifestations of cultural change in specific areas of the lowlands at the end of the Classic period result fiom varied local responses to those common challenges as deter- mined by regional conditions. As we shall see, the highly variable cultural histories of the lowland Maya kingdoms at the end of the Classic period can be broadly related to these common factors or “causes,” but with very different local consequences. 242 Ancient Maya A second terminological problem is scholars” varying definition of “collapse” or “decline.” What is it that experiences collapse or decline? Maya kingdoms in many areas of eastern Mesoamerica were vigorous polities in the Postclassic period, and millions of Maya today are partic— ipating in a modern cultural and political resurgence (e.g. Fischer and Brown 1 996). Whatever happened to many of the southern lowland cities, it was not a uniform, total collapse of these states, and it was in no way an end or even decline of the enduring Maya tradition. The fragmentation of the western Roman Empire after the fourth century AD was not an end of Western civilization. In the same way, the Maya tradition continued through the Postclassic, Colonial, and modern periods — long after the Classic Petén cities had been absorbed by the rain forest. Recent analyses of the “collapse” of civilizations have shown that this term is best defined as a rapid decline in complexity in a particular polit— ical system (e.g. Tainter 1988, Yoffee and Cowgill 1988). In the lowland Maya case what actually collapsed, declined, or was transformed at the end of the Classic period was a particular political system and the features and institutions associated with it — namely, a political system of theater— states dominated by the K’uhul Ajaw, or the holy lords. The end of this system also led to the disappearance of its associated funerary cults (with their stelae, altars, and tomb—temples), “galactic” political hegemonies, and the state patronage networks of redistribution of fine ceramics and high—status exotic goods and ornaments. This system disappeared by the tenth century, and in some regions of the southern lowlands its passing was accompanied by the depopulation of major cities, drastic reduction of public architecture, and other dramatic changes. Such a true “collapse” seems to characterize events in the western Petén. In other areas, however, the end of the Classic period was one of more gradual change, in some cases even of florescence and transformation to a new political order. Still, in all cases the distinctive Classic Maya political order and many of its attendant institutions, features, and artifacts disappeared. Viewed in this light, the enigma of the Classic Maya collapse becomes a more realistic and manageable problem. We can plot the various collapses, declines, florescences, or transformations of Classic Maya civilization across the highly variable kingdoms of the Maya lowlands and note the common underlying structural problems or changes, the varying proxi— mate “causes” and external forces, and the resulting collapses, declines, or transformations in each region (e.g. Demarest, Rice, and Rice 2004a). The parallel features in the regional changes can help to identify common pressures and problems in Classic Maya society, while the differences in regional manifestations reflect the political and economic variability of the kingdoms of the Classic Maya lowlands. Collapse, transition, and transformation 243 Characteristics of the Classic Period Maya Political and Ideological W . Charismatic and Shamanistic .Minimal Central Control by Leadership (K’uhul Ajaw) Elites oAjaw Leadcrship in Warfare and .Regional and Local Economy not Ritual State Controlled oldeological Base for Power .Agdcultural System Well- _ Adapted to Tropical Rain Forest .Flex1ble System of Royal (Imitating its Dispersion and Succession Diversity) .Conn’ol and Distribution of nDispersed Urban and Rural Status Reinforcing Goods Settlement Pattern .Considerable Investment in Monumental Architecture, Art, Symbols of Status, and other Elements of Ritual and Propaganda uElite Warfare for Limited Positions of Power Figure 10.2 Some salient characteristics of most Classic Maya states Structural problems of the Classic Maya political order The fundamental characteristics of Classic Maya civilization in the lowlands have been detailed in Chapters 5—8, and in Chapter 9 we glimpsed the volatile historical dynamics and the variable regional politics of the Classic period. Some salient characteristics of most Classic Maya kingdoms are summarized in Figure 10.2. These are, of course, broad generalizations, some of which apply only weakly to specific kingdoms. For example, some of the unusually large polities, such as Calakmul, Tikal, and Caracol, may have achieved a more integrated and centralized regional economic system. Other sites had a less dispersed population. Yet none achieved a population nucleation or an economic centralization comparable to Teotihuacan, Tiwanaku, or many other ancient civiliza— tions. The centralization of religious and political authority in the divine shamanistic kings of the Maya theater—states was a hallmark feature of Classic civilization. With their power based heavily on ritual perfor— mance and inter—center warfare, the K’uhul Ajaw wielded great power and authority, but with its basis more in ideology than economics. A flexible system of royal succession allowed a son (not necessarily the 244 Ancient Maya eldest), a brother, another male relative, or in some cases even a queen to take the throne upon the death of the ruler. Such a flexible system of succession has advantages in seeking a suitable heir with the requi- site heritage and charisma to rule. Yet this flexible system of succession was also highly unstable, with frequent battles for the throne fought both physically through warfare and through other forms of status rivalry. The instability of the system was aggravated by the redundant, segrnentary nature of the political order, with the subordinate minor centers or vassal kingdoms capable of most, if not all, of the same functions of the capitals. Change in the political order of all states was common through usurpation by rivals for the throne, defeat by other states, and revolt and overthrow by rulers of subordinate states or secondary centers. All of these blows to the dynastic order could result in rapid changes in the prestige of the center and the control of tribute labor — more so because power was based heavily on claims of supernatural power and personal authority. In Chapter 9, we saw how the defeat or capture of prominent rulers could lead to a decline in construction activity and a retraction in the size of the “galaxy” of satellites paying tribute in labor or goods to the capi- tal center. Even the greatest and most prestigious centers were subject to these fluctuations in power, as seen in the sixth—century defeat and “hiatus” at Tikal, the decline of Calakmul after its defeat in AD 695, and the fragmentation of dynastic power in the Copan kingdom after its defeat by a former vassal, Quirigua (Chapter 9). Conversely, the expansion of regional power could be brought about by success in alliance formation, war, and ritual by particularly charismatic kings, as seen at Tikal under the Early Classic foreign—afiliated kings, or at Caracol after its sixth— century victories. These unstable dynamics of expanding and contracting “galactic” hegemonies, such as those of Tikal and Calakmul, were merely the most spectacular versions of the ongoing status rivalry that was charac- teristic of the Maya theater—states (e.g. Webster 1999 5 cf. Tambiah 1977 3 Demarest 1992b). This status rivalry sometimes generated conflict and warfare but, more often, it stimulated the extraordinary Classic architec- ture, art, and monuments that were the settings for pageants, feasting, and rituals. These activities were the more common form of competition for the allegiance of subordinate centers and the support of the popu- lace as a whole. Grand rituals, inter—elite Visits and feasting, marriage alliances, and war were alternative paths to power for the K’uhul Ajaw. All scholars have observed an intensification of these activities of status rivalry in the Late Classic period. Competitive investment in architec- ture and monuments for intensified ritual created the impressive Classic period epicenters, monuments, and artifacts. Alliance, warfare, and inter— site visits also increased. While these activities produced the beautiful corpus of Classic Maya art and ruins admired today, they had a high Collapse, transition, and transformation 245 energetic cost for the supporting populations of the Classic period. Elite polygamy, a successful mode of extending power and forming alliances, would have exacerbated these pressures by increasing the size of the elite class and the number of rival princes competing for positions of power. Infrastructural stress and counterproductive responses Most collapse theories have stressed problems of demography and ecolog- ical stress at the end of the Classic period (see Culbert ed. 1973 and bibliographic essay). Such analyses correctly point to the high popula— tion levels and densities in the Late Classic period as a major source of ecological stress on the productive, but fragile, rain forest agricul— tural system that sustained them. These models, however, implicitly accept a Malthusian logic that human populations outgrow the resources needed to support them. The last fifty years of comparative ethnogra— phy on human demography have demonstrated that societies regulate their growth through a wide variety of mechanisms, including postpartum taboos, celibate sectors of society, homosexual behavior, coitus interrup— tus, periodic abstinence, abortion, and infanticide (e.g. Beshers 1967; Devereux 1967, Mamdani 1974; Langer 1974, Polgar 1975, Coleman and Schofield 1986, Wrigley 1969). Archaeologists must, then, explain in cultural terms the posited episodes of demographic growth, especially if they led to stress on the society’s infrastructure. Other problems with demographic models for decline or collapse are more specific to the Maya case. As described below, political fragmenta— tion, decline, and abandonment of centers occur first and most rapidly in the western Petén. Yet extensive ecological, osteological, and settle— ment studies in the Pasion region have found there complex agricultural regimes that were well adapted to population levels with no indications of increasing nutritional stress (e.g. Dunning at al. 1997; O’Mansky and Dunning 2004; Wright 1994, 1997, Emery 1997). It is difficult, then, to attribute political collapse in the west to demographic or ecological crises. In the central Petén, where population levels were much higher, political decline occurs more gradually and at least half a century later — followed by an Early Postclassic resurgence. In such areas, the high popu— lation levels may have been encouraged by elite ideology in order to generate the labor pools needed to support the intensifying construction projects, wars, and rituals of the competing rulers. Such Late Classic demographic and ecological stresses were more likely consequences, rather than causes, of Late Classic status rivalry and warfare. Aspects of Classic Maya political and ideological structure may have exacerbated many of the infrastructural and ecological problems observed in some 246 Ancient Maya regions, such as the central Petén and the Copan Valley (see Fig. 10.3 “a,” “b,” and “c”). Another basic question regarding the collapse, decline, or transforma— tion of the lowland cities and kingdoms at the end of the Classic period is why in many areas Maya leadership did not respond with effective corrective measures for the stresses generated by internal, as well as external, factors. Cross-cultural studies of culture change show that “complex societies are problem—solving organizations, in which more parts, different kinds of parts, more social differentiation, more inequality, and more kinds of centralization and control emerge as circumstances require” (Tainter 1 988:37). Yet the K’uhul Ajaw failed to respond with effective corrections of infrastructural problems. Their ineffectiveness was most likely due to the canons of Maya leadership and its limited range of action. The elites of most Classic Maya kingdoms, in general, did not manage subsistence systems or production or exchange of utilitarian goods. Most Maya poli- ties, While held together by the rituals and authority of the center, were decentralized with local community or family—level management of most aspects of the economy. This decentralized system facilitated adaptation of farming systems to local microenvironments (e. g. Dunning er al. 1997 3 Dunning and Beach in press). Yet having their role defined in terms of ritual and inter-elite alliance and warfare, it is not surprising that the K’uhul Ajaw responded through these same mechanisms to problems such as demographic pressure or ecological deterioration. They natu— rally reacted by intensifying ritual activities, construction, or warfare —- the activities within their purview. Such counterproductive responses would have only increased the stresses on Late Classic economies and led to internal fission, usurpations, fragmentation, and further conflicts — all processes observed to intensify in the eighth and ninth centuries (see Fig. 10.3 “d”). ltural grim: and Regional Exchange Systems Locally Controlled Economic ip Inability to in Terms l Demographic Pressure, Ecological Deterioration, . elite controlled) or Loss ofTradc C cadersh Respond Non-Productive Elite (well adapted but not Responses (more Warfare or ritual) Aggravation of Crisis infrastructure-A l Ovcrpopulation With Growth of Elites Need for Site Fortification l Ecological Deterioration /' Warfare Intensification Pressures for Population Growth Rivalry for Power and Population Clustering Incrcasmg Exploitation Near Defensible Centers Dynastic inter-Elite Warfare of Agricultural Systems Elite ion P itc Warfare to Support Warfare (i incentives for increasing Non—Elite Production rpopulation so in Rulershi Elite Polygamy Populat Political Alliance incrca Populations Needed Status and Claims for Ecological Deterioration General Ove Increasing Competition for increasing intir-El Pressures an The nature of the “Classic Maya collapse” The stresses reviewed above may have left many of the Classic Maya states of the ninth century weakened and fragmented internally and unable to compete with other Mesoamerican states. Some of these neighbors had begun to evolve on the central Mexican pattern of multiple institutions of centralized power with elites more directly managing production and trade, as well as ritual and warfare. In the end, the K’uhul Ajaw system with its divine lords and theater-states may have been unable to respond to the very problems generated by the demands of its rituals, wars, and feasting, and the expensive stages, props, and costumes required for polit— ical and religious performances. ion . Investment Q 2 ed LI-l 0-4 B U) U) <1 bl U m E" < D—J m E E" E U) 2 til-J i—J CQ 0 a: 9-4 0 5..., Ct LI-l >4 2 I [-4 U) M O i-< O < LL Buildings, and Monuments as Personal and Political Propaganda Pressures on Non-elite Overpopulat Leadership Dependent upon ideology and Ritual investment in Art, Population for such Pressures to increase Non-Elite Populations Ecological Deterioration Figure 10.3 Some structural problems of Classic Maya states 248 Ancient Maya By the ninth and tenth centuries, in different specific ways in each region, the K’uhul Ajaw system was transformed or replaced in Yucatan, parts of Belize, and the Central Lakes area of the Petén. In its place arose states that gave more authority to multiple institutions of power — councils of lineage heads, the priestly class, elite merchant classes, warrior guilds, and so on. Some of these were the so—called mulzepal system states of the Postclassic, in which the heads of leading lineages shared power in uneasy alliances (e.g. Sabloff and Andrews 1986, Sharer 1994:402— 406, Roys 1965a). In other areas of the lowlands (including much of the central Petén and the Mexican states of Campeche and Quintana Roo), Classic Maya ldngdoms struggled and then declined in varying ways or underwent less traumatic changes. Yet in the western Petén and some other zones, many centers and cities were rapidly depopulated as the bulk of their population dispersed or moved off to other zones. Thus, as reviewed in this chapter, each region experienced a different sequence of events and a distinctive configuration of proximate causes in their collapses, declines, or transformations. The specific culture histories in each region — with their different sequence of changes and endings — reflect the underlying variability in ecology, state forms, and historical influences in the Classic period. Yet in each case there were shared under— lying factors in the structural problems and the political involution of the K’uhul Ajaw system. By the close of the tenth century, this system had disappeared from lowland Maya civilization. The notion of a uniform “fall” or “collapse” is now as obsolete for the Classic Maya as for the Roman Empire. Instead, as with Rome, a complex series of processes occurred over a period of over two centuries. For example, there was a political collapse in some regions (e.g. western Europe for Rome, the western Petén for the Maya), decline in other areas (e.g. North Africa for Rome, the central and southeastern Petén for the Maya), and florescence in yet other zones (e.g. Byzantium in the Roman case, and the northern lowlands for the Terminal Classic Maya). Scholars are now beginning to plot and to try to understand the complex nature of changes and conti— nuity in each region, rather than arguing over the “cause” of a uniform “collapse” process. Some of the “dynamic” models consider the changes at the end of the Classic period to be just another manifestation of the continuous volatility of Classic Maya politics and the pulsations of its expanding and contracting polities (e. g. Marcus 1993, 1998). This ninth—century transi— tion, however, was fundamentally difierent because in some regions it was followed by depopulation and by the cessation of public architecture, and in other zones the political and economic order was irreversibly changed. Also with the passing of the Ajaw complex, its legitimating mechanisms (e.g. Freidel 1992) in art, architecture, and ritual also disappeared. Some Collapse, transition, and transformation 249 of the Postclassic Maya states that flourished in the Guatemalan highlands and Yucatan were as populous and even more vigorous economically and politically than the Classic Maya theater—state, but they did not generate anything like the vast corpus of art and architecture of their Classic—period predecessors. They didn’t need to. Their power was less dependent on the generation and the legitimization of authority through monumental display and ritual. In the Classic period, the most common smaller Maya state, like the Asian theater—state, “drew its force, which was real enough, from its imaginative energies, its semiotic capacity to make inequality enchant” (Geertz 1980: 123). It was this elegant but fragile system, as beautiful and seductive to modern scholars and readers as it was to the Maya populace, that came to an end in the ninth and tenth centuries — making way for a new, more flexible and adaptable political order. The beginning of the end: political devolution and warfare in the Petexbatun collapse While the variable processes involved in the end of Classic lowland Maya civilization did not “begin” in any particular region, the earliest yet identified and studied “collapse” of Classic—period political systems occurred in the western Petén, and there perhaps the earliest in the Petexbatun region (Fig. 10.4). For over a decade, large multidisciplinary projects investigated ecology, history, ritual, economics and trade, settle— ment, subsistence systems, nutrition, and warfare, as well as undertaking intensive study of the many kilometers of cave systems below the sites of the Petexbatun region (Demarest 1997, in press b). The evidence from these independent investigations has been used to test alternative hypotheses on the rapid decline of the Classic Maya kingdoms there. The results revealed a clear and consistent, albeit complex, sequence of events in the Petexbatun. In the early seventh century a new regime with Tikal affiliations was established as a military outpost of the Tikal alliance in the Petexbatun region with its seat at the site of Dos Pilas. Yet by the mid—seventh century, the young king of Dos Pilas was conquered by the ruler of Calakmul and drawn into that center’s stratagems of regional alliance and war against Tikal and its allies (Fahsen et al. 2003, Demarest and Fahsen 2003). Then the rapidly constructed capital center at Dos Pilas was used as a base to wage war in collaboration with Calakmul against Tikal and to conquer their Pasion River Valley neighbors. Through Dos Pilas, Cancuen, and other vassal centers, the Calakmul alliance controlled the western river route until the end of the eighth century. Then, after Calakmul’s AD 695 defeat by Tikal, Dos Pilas remained as the great military power of the Pasién region (Demarest and Fahsen 2003; Demarest 1993, 1997). 250 Ancient Maya , A51 cmik‘ ‘ .. ~ ‘ A ‘ . La Amelia SeibalA . Pctexbatun River ' A Altar de acrificios ‘ ’1 D05 Pilas A - \ Arroyo de Piedra.) ‘ . Punta de Chimino \ /‘ Tamarindito W Paabarun A M E X I C O Aguateca} Salinas Rite, er GUATEMALA Figure 10.4 Petexbatun region and some major sites (drawn by Luis F. Luin) By the mid—eighth century, Dos Pilas controlled through conquest or alliance most of the Pasion River Valley, the main route of transport and trade between the lowlands and the highlands to the south and, consequently, the source of jade, hard stone, quetzal feathers, and other status—reinforcing goods. Through marriage alliance the regime extended the dynasty’s hegemony to include an alliance with the Cancuen kingdom, which controlled the head of navigation of the Pasion and the passes to the highlands (Fahsen and Jackson 2002). This control and tribute from vassals were primary sources of economic support for Dos Pilas, probably even including food from nearby vassals (Dunning er al. 1997; Dunning and Beach in press). The wealth of this predatory kingdom filled tombs, caches, and the caves beneath the center Collapse, transition, and transformation 251 Figure 10.5 Dos Pilas Western Group (drawn by Luis F. Luin). Bottom: group before AD 761. Top: group after AD 761 with encircling palisades and stone base walls built by dismantling earlier temples and palaces With polychromes, eccentrics, and other artifacts (Demarest 1993, 19975 Brady er al. 1991, 1997). The K’uhul Ajaw of Dos Pilas established a second dynastic seat at the older defensible hilltop center of Aguateca to facilitate control of their sprawling hegemony (e.g. Inomata 1997). At Dos Pilas itself, temples, plazas, monuments, sacred caves, and multiple palaces were connected by a cosmologically patterned circuit of proces— sion paths (Demarest et al. 2003; see Chapter 8). In AD 760—7 61 , the galactic polity of Dos Pilas violently fragmented. The proximate cause of this catastrophe was the siege, defeat, and destruction of the capital at Dos Pilas. The war and defeat of the PeteX— batun K’uhul Ajaw by their former vassal of Tamarindito was recorded in monuments at that site and celebrated on the inscriptions on the funerary temple of the victorious Tamarindito lord (Valdés 1997b). The archae— ological excavations at Dos Pilas uncovered a hastily constructed series of defensive walls around parts of the site epicenters. The West Plaza Group was encircled by walls 1 to 1.5 meters high that were hastily constructed from the blocks ripped from the sacred temples and palaces there (Fig. 10.5). Topped by a wooden palisade, these walls (each over 500 meters long) encircled some of the temples and palace structures and 252 Ancient Maya Figure 10.6 Eighth—century defensive systems around the El Duende complex, Dos Pilas, Guatemala (drawn by Luis F. Luin) the large west courtyard (Demarest er al. 1997). There, in the former setting of the spectacular pageants of the theater—state, the besieged remaining inhabitants of Dos Pilas constructed a densely packed siege village. A similar system of low walls bearing palisades surrounded the towering El Duende complex a kilometer to the east. The three concentric walls and palisades turned this huge sacred temple and the court behind it into a formidable fortress (Fig. 10.6). Between the two complexes the central Murcielagos palace of the last ruler (see Chapter 8) lay abandoned atop its sacred hill. The inscribed monumental throne there was overturned and broken into fragments with ofierings before it (a typical Maya act of ritual destruction, i.e. a “termination ritual”) (Mock 1998). Population at Dos Pilas declined within the next few years to five to ten percent of previous levels. By the ninth century there were only a few scattered households, whose inhabitants farmed and hunted amongst the ruins. The many nobles of Dos Pilas fled during this period to the second royal seat at Aguateca, and also perhaps farther south to join their in—laws at Cancuen (Demarest and Barrientos 2002, Demarest 2003). In the subsequent period from AD 761 to 830, the Petexbatun and middle Pasion regions collapsed into a state of endemic warfare. Initially it appears that major centers such as Aguateca, Tamarindito, Seibal, and La Amelia battled to become the new royal seat of the Petexbatun region. But the escalating warfare appears to have spiraled out of control, with tremendous energetic expenditures on wall palisade systems in all areas Collapse, transition, and transformation 253 Figure 10.7 Portion of the fortification system at Aguateca (drawn by Luis F. Luin) and a shift of populations to defensible enclaves (Demarest er al. 1991, 1997, O’Mansky and Dunning 2004, see bibliographic essay). Trade systems in polychromes and other outside goods were disrupted, and even local exchange was limited by the intensifying warfare (Foias 1996, Foias and Bishop 1997). By the close of the eighth century, the Petexbatun region had become a “landscape of fear” with settlement patterns determined only by defen— sibility (Dunning and Beach in press, O’Mansky and Dunning 2004). Fortification systems have been found by excavation and survey through— out the region (Fig. 1 0.4). Wall and palisade systems varied greatly in scale and extent. Some were low stone walls merely to foot wooden palisades, others were impressive ramparts over four meters in height. At Aguateca, the remaining stronghold of the Dos Pilas elite, over five kilometers of wall systems were constructed to supplement that center’s natural defenses of high cliffs to the west and a fifty— to seventy—meter deep gorge to the east (Fig. 10.7). Despite these awesome fortifications, not long after AD 800 Aguateca was overrun and burned by its enemies. Many artifacts were left in situ on the surface by its unfortunate defenders, while its royal palace was ritually destroyed (Inomata 1995, 1997, 2003, in press). In some areas of the Petexbatun region even small hamlets were moved to defensible positions and fortified with low walls and palisades (Fig. 10.8). Some fortifications had ingenious features such as baffled gateways and “killing alleys” in which enemy assailants could be trapped between walls and pummeled with projectiles (Fig. 10.5). Areas near some of the defended zones may have been intensively farmed, as Ancient Maya Figure 10.8 Fortified hilltop village in the Petexbatun (drawn by Luis F. Luin) Figure 10.9 Late Classic site of Punta de Chimino with defensive moats and protected intensive garden zones (drawn by Luis F. Luin) indicated by phosphate analyses and terrace features (Dunning er al. 1997, O’Mansky and Dunning 2004, see Fig. 6.4). For example, the fortification system of the center of Punta de Chimino included stone box gardens and areas of intensive agriculture and fertilization within the second and third outer moat and rampart systems (Figs. 10.9, 6.3). This militarized landscape, with a reduced population concentrated in fortified enclaves, contradicted the norms of the Classic Maya settlement Collapse, transition, and transformation 255 strategy. With field systems concentrated near defended enclaves, overuse of soils in these loci could have followed, contradicting the Classic Maya subsistence strategy of diversity and dispersion of different types of farm— ing systems (cf. Chapter 6). More importantly, this militarized landscape, with its very reduced and defended zones of settlement, could no longer provide safe residence for the previous high population levels, probably leading to emigration. By AD 830 population in the region had been reduced to scattered small hamlets and lone households. The only remaining major center after AD 830 was Punta de Chimino, situated on a naturally defensible peninsula in Lake Petex— batun (Demarest 1996a, 2004, Demarest, Escobedo, and O’Mansky 1997; Demarest and Escobedo 1997, Wolley and Wright 1991 ; Wolley 1993). Three moat and wall systems separated the center from the main— land and protected its areas of intensive agriculture. The largest moat was excavated over ten meters deep into the bedrock, allowing the waters of the lake to pass through it and making the site epicenter an artificial, Virtu— ally impregnable island fortress (Fig. 10.9). Only this center survived the maelstrom of endemic warfare in the Petexbatun and continued to erect public architecture into the late ninth century (Demarest 2004). But even this lake center and the few hamlets inland were gradually abandoned by the tenth century. Major centers never returned to the region but later, in the Postclassic years, settlers from the central Petén established scattered hamlets and fishing camps along Petexbatun rivers and lakes (Morgan and Demarest 1995; Johnston er al. 2001), while the ruins of the great Classic centers remained unoccupied. Thus, in this Petexbatun zone of the Maya lowlands the end of the Classic civilization was truly a “collapse” — a rapid decline in sociopolitical complexity. In this case it was also accompanied by endemic warfare and great population reduction. It was a dramatic example of the regional disintegration of a civilization. Causality in the Petexbatun collapse: alternative hypotheses As the most studied regional example of the collapse, the Petexbatun political disintegration serves to test alternative models of external factors and internal problems in the ending of the Classic Maya political order (see bibliographic essay). Obviously, endemic warfare spiraled out of control in this region, disrupting economic systems and forcing a settle— ment and subsistence strategy capable of supporting only a fraction of previous population levels. This well—documented series of changes provides only the proximate causes of the collapse. The next question is, what were the underlying causes of this warfare? 256 Ancient Maya Previous studies and interpretations had suggested that foreign inva- sions might have been the source of the intensified warfare in the western Petén at sites like Seibal and Altar de Sacrificios in the late eighth and ninth century (e.g. R.E.W Adams 1973; Sabloff and Willey 1967). The introduction of fine—paste ceramics and new elements in monumental iconography at those sites were attributed to an invasion of “Mexicanized” Maya peoples from Tabasco. More recent studies have shown that the fine wares were locally produced in the Pasion region (Bishop 1994, Foias and Bishop 1997) and the unusual styles of ninth—century monuments at Altar de Sacrificias and Seibal also had antecedents within the Maya lowlands (Stuart 1993). Many of the features once believed to repre— sent foreign influences, including militaristic iconography and C—shaped house forms, appear to have developed in the Petexbatun region itself (Demarest 1997, 2004; Tourtellot and Gonzales 2004). While warfare was clearly one factor in the collapse in the western Petén, its causes and impact cannot be attributed to foreign invasion. Another popular recurrent theory for the Maya collapse posits great climatic change as having directly brought about the collapse or having led to drought, famine, and war over dwindling resources (e. g. Gill 2000). Such theories have experienced a resurgence in popularity due to evidence from pollen cores in northern Yucatan and elsewhere, suggest- ing a possible drought there in the tenth century (e.g. Curtis er al. 19965 Hoddell er al. 1995, Lucero 20025 Robichaux 2002; Haug er al. 2003). In the Petexbatun, however, the endemic warfare begins over a century before the proposed drought. This earliest lowland “collapse” is nearly over before the alleged drought process begins (O’Mansky and Dunning 2004; Demarest 2004). Furthermore, the Petexbatun paleoeco— logical researches show no evidence of Late or Terminal Classic drought, famine, or radical change of any kind in climate, ecology, 0r nutrition (e.g. Dunning er al. 1997, Dunning and Beach in press, Wright 1994, 1997, in press, Wright and White 1996). The most popular theories to explain the political disruptions and decline at the end of the Classic period are those positing overpopulation and consequent overexploitation of the environment, followed by ecolog- ical deterioration and political problems (e.g. Culbert 1974, 1977, 19885 Santley er al. 1986). It does appear that such problems did arise in the central Petén, the Copan Valley, and other regions. Yet again, in the Petex— batun and western Petén, where centers and states first decline, there is no such evidence of rapid ecological deterioration. The extensive paleoe— cological and settlement studies conducted in the Petexbatun revealed a fairly stable Late Classic environment with a complex mix of subsistence adaptations designed to minimize environmental damage (Dunning er a]. Collapse, transition, and transformation 257 1997, Dunning and Beach in press). There was no increase in malnutri— tion or disease evident in Late Classic human bones, and even deer bones indicate a stable diet and good nutrition in the eighth and ninth centuries (Wright 1997a, in press; Emery 1 997, in press, Emery et al. 2000). Thus, for the Petexbatun, the hard evidence does not indicate ecological stress - be it caused by climate change or ecological exploitation — as the under— lying cause of the region’s early and violent collapse (Demarest 1997, 2004, in press b). For the causes of the endemic warfare and disintegration of polities in the Petexbatun, we must look to the political and economic stresses created by the K’uhul Ajaw system itself. As described at the begin— ning of this chapter, the collapse in the Petexbatun can be regarded as an early and extreme manifestation of the general problems of the Classic Maya political system and its demands. The latter were exacer— bated in the seventh and eighth centuries by increasing inter-elite status rivalry, the grong proportion of elites in the population, and the conse— quent increase in inter—elite competition for limited positions of royal power and for status-reinforcing exotic goods. This cycle of contra— dictory demands on the system increased inter—center warfare, rapidly devolving into more widespread conflict as the basic infrastructure of the region was disrupted. In turn, in the context of such competitive polit— ical relations, general demographic growth would be encouraged rather than controlled. Figure 10.10 provides a detailed but hypothetical model of potential underlying stresses, probable effects, and the consequent sequence of maladaptive responses and negative consequences that may have destroyed the political systems of the Petexbatun. Collapse in the western Petén Within less than seventy years of the fall of Dos Pilas as a political capital, the fragmentation and warfare in the region had led to rapid depopulation of centers and the countryside. By AD 830, only one major center remained, the massively fortified site of Punta de Chimino. Popu— lation in the Terminal Classic period (AD 830 to 1000) in the rest of the Petexbatun region was reduced to scattered households and small hamlets near water sources (O’Mansky and Dunning 2004, Demarest 2004). Such a rapid depopulation would have involved emigration of tens of thousands to other areas where refugee populations would have further destabilized polities that were already under stress from the cycle of pressures on Classic political and economic systems generated by status rivalry, the demands of Maya elites, and varying regional diffi— culties. In the Petexbatun, the fall and abandonment of Dos Pilas was m 2' U, ‘53- : z' .. m 3% $3 EE ES 53 ééfifigmaEMSa—teémgg (71‘ “a "’5 “to 04: a 55 5 312E E“ g a a” 2 EB E‘s § (/3 u 5E o E 9 (m: g 5 EE z m m of" z 6‘8 Egg E3 a: E < E8 DEB °3 “‘3 a m a “flag as nag-r: O < <5< E” 221 2 m 5% 5;: g ” ° 2 2‘ CZ: E 5 $5 S E H W E gm E m < E“ :3 a "0 g u a P a a m H i“ 6H524m ‘3 5 m E E E“ < : Eur-1 WE ‘2 m E g 5.3 < m g E I38\§ w 0 a S 9" E 8 E5 55 § % g 3 5 g 2 z a. "’ gs g/v‘smfiWW O B o E we I: > g 25' m g a. U H «"3 9a as «22“» p z < 3 wsza/‘ao ag<oaw m < 0—93» E—bus 2“ a} W 2 Q 2 3 E“ E “— e 3r: am a i e e a :3 Q g $3 0:: o - E a: m f3 3 28 E 9 E v FF W >4 m m :5 m E E E 3 § 9-! , O u m o 2 BE 2 p. E c: m A O 5 ° : 3: 21% E {D 5—vg—-—>§g 512-9 -+o O 5 o 03 a; E 2 2’ 0 o o 2 § 23* Q “2 a s: m 2 a E 3 § Q g a < g OISSV’IOHHcI OISSV’IO OISSV’IO ’Ime Figure 10.10 Schematic interpretation of causality in the collapse of the Late Classic Petexbatun kingdom Collapse, transition, and transformation 259 followed a few decades later by that of Tamarindito, Arroyo de Piedra, and Aguateca (Demarest and Valdés 1995). Families and larger groups may have moved to other areas, initially in adjacent zones and later to more distant regions (Demarest 2004). Elsewhere in the western Petén, parallel processes appear to have been under way. " In the Usumacinta region of the western Petén, sudden termina— tion of construction was followed by rapid depopulation early in the ninth century. Notably, this region was characterized by warfare between centers in the eighth century, with a proliferation of minor centers with new ‘holy lords’ and the presence of many subordinate lords or sajals (Mathews 1988, Stuart 1995). Major rival centers such as Yaxchi— Ian and Piedras Negras were in constant competition with prestige— enhancing construction projects, public rituals, inter—elite visits, feasts, and, most directly, wars (e.g. Schele and Mathews 1991; Schele 1991). They also had to compete with potential rivals at lesser centers in their realms. Finally, major centers such as Piedras Negras fell into rapid decline after the defeat and capture of their rulers by holy lords of rival centers such as Yaxchilan, or even defeat by smaller, previously subor— dinate, centers, as in the case of the decline at Palenque (Schele 1991; Schele and Matthews 1991). The fragmentation of the segmentary or “galactic” polities of the Late Classic was clearly under way and the structural flaws of redundancy of function between capitals and subor— dinate centers were providing the fissures for this process. The loss of prestige and the undermining of sacred authority of the K’uhul Ajaw would follow, as worsening stresses on the society raised doubts about the ruler’s power with ancestors and supernatural forces. The weaken— ing of rulers’ authority would have been worsened by events upriver, where endemic warfare in the Petexbatun and middle Pasién would have restricted the flow of status—reinforcing exotic goods from the high— lands (Demarest and Fahsen 2003). With a growing elite, proliferat— ing independent dynasties, and intensified ritual and warfare, the kings, their courts, and their subordinate centers would have badly needed such imported goods for the rituals, gift-giving, and tribute that were so critical to the formation and maintenance of alliance and patronage networks. All of these pressures could have contributed to the cessation of construction and then the depopulation of the major western centers, first Palenque, then Piedras Negras, Yaxchilan, and other centers (Mathews 1988; Schele 19913 Holley 1983). Military defeats often provided the final blow to prestige, but the cycle of causality came from the building problems and contradictions of the Classic Maya theater—state system. 260 Ancient Maya The subordinate populations, literally “disenchanted” with their sacred lords and frustrated by a multitude of problems, gradually drifted away to more distant centers or regions (Demarest and Valdés l 995, Demarest 2004, Demarest, Rice, and Rice 2004b; Holley l 983; Houston at al. 2001, Webster er al. 1999). Migration and enclave formation in the Pasién Valley and other regions The impact of the collapse and depopulation of the Petexbatun and other regions of the western Petén would have been felt throughout the Maya lowlands. In the 19905 we have seen that the greatest cost of warfare is the displacement of populations. In Somalia, Yugoslavia, and Central Africa, the United Nations and other international agencies have strug— gled, with limited success, to deal with refugee migrations and the conse— quent famines, disease, and spread of conflict in the wake of wars (e.g. UNDHA 1994; Annan 1997). In each case, warfare between major states or larger opposition groups led to fragmentation within smaller units, finally disintegrating into a wholly militarized landscape from which large numbers of people were forced to flee, spreading chaos to adjacent zones (UNDHA 1994). There are additional interesting parallels between recent events in Somalia and the western Petén collapse. In Somalia, migration fiom the troubled southern region of open warfare spread conflict and collapse to other areas (McKinley 1997). Yet in some zones, such as the town of Bassaso in the north, warring leaders established new mechanisms of government, drawing on ancient, traditional, clan-based ideology to create and legitimate a councilar form of leadership. By 1997 this and other northern enclaves had experienced a florescence amid the chaos of Somalia, as they incorporated thousands of refugees moving as families and even whole villages from the embattled surrounding regions. Recent political analyses have characterized these events as “an experiment in government that created a new form of power centralized in a council and not in individual chiefs or warlords” (McKinley 1997). This process may be broadly analogous to what was occurring in the ninth century in the Pasion River Valley and some other regions. As the neighboring Petexbatun region lay in ruins, there was a florescence at Seibal and Altar de Sacrificios with a distinctive (but Classic Maya) sculptural style and technically sophisticated monochrome Fine Orange and Fine Gray ceramics (again new, but locally developed in the Pasion River Valley). These material changes also may have marked a shift in the Collapse, transition, and transformation 261 ideology of power. Seibal fully participated in the warfare of the eighth and early ninth centuries in the Petexbatun. With its highly defensible location (Tourtellot 1988: 432—436), access to water, and probable agri- cultural terraces in defended areas (Dunning et al. 1997: 261, Dunning and Beach in press), Seibal was able to survive the eighth—century mael— strom, like its smaller neighbor to the south at Punta de Chimino. During the AD 760—830 epoch of endemic conflict, Group D at Seibal may have served as a defensive fortress with high parapets and a defensible posi— tion similar to that of the Aguateca fortress (Tourtellot 1988: 432—436, Tourtellot and Gonzales 2004; Demarest 2004). Unlike most of their unfortunate neighboring states, the lords of Seibal and Altar de Sacri— ficios presided over a florescence at their enclave centers. At the same time, the only remaining ninth-century enclave in the Petexbatun to the south, Punta de Chimino, survived with architecture, ceramics, and arti- facts very similar to those of Seibal and Altar de Sacrificios (Demarest and Escobedo 1997, Demarest, Escobedo, and O’Mansky 1997). The new architectural and sculptural forms at Seibal, Altar, and Punta de Chimino were not foreign, but rather were an amalgam of traditional Classic Maya forms combined into a distinctive new variant (Tourtellot and Gonzales 2004). The new K’uhul Ajaw of Seibal appear to have had close ties to the Central Lakes area to the east (Stuart 1993). On the other hand, the fine—ware monochrome ceramics of the period were local vari- ants of technologies earlier introduced into the Petexbatun from the west (Foias and Bishop 1 997). Many of the unusual features in the sculptures, strange costumes, long hair styles, and ubiquitous serpents (Fig. 10.11) may have been part of an experimentation with new legitimating ideolo— gies (e. g. Ringle er al. 1998) that would help these surviving enclaves pull together a kingdom from the fiagmented political systems and popu— lations of the collapsed states of the Petexbatun and other adjacent zones. Perhaps like the Bassaso leaders of modern Somalia, the rulers of the Altar and Seibal Pasion Valley enclaves were drawing on both ancient Maya symbols and new styles and concepts to legitimate these states and pull together their disparate populations. These adaptations allowed Seibal, Altar, and Punta de Chimino to survive for an addi— tional century (AD 830 to 950/1000). In the end, though, these experi— ments in new concepts and ideologies were but a variant of the traditional Classic-period political order, and by the end of the tenth century these Lower Pasio'n centers were abandoned (Demarest 1997; Demarest and Escobedo 1997; Demarest er al. eds. 1997; Demarest 2004; Tourtellot and Gonzales 2004). 262 Ancient Maya Figure 10.11 Monument 3 of Seibal showing unusual Terminal Classic iconography and garb Decline of the Classic tradition in the central Petén In most areas of the southern Maya lowlands, the end of the Classic period was less dramatic. Fragmentation of political authority occurred, but it was accompanied by only slow decline in population and architec— tural activity. In the eighth century, Tikal experienced its greatest period of constructional activity. The great ruler Jasaw Chan K’awiil I and his eighth-century successors directed the vast Tikal architectural programs (see Chapter 9). This “revitalization” of Tikal may be regarded more as a symptom of stress than of strength (Ashmore and Sharer 1975, Dahlin 1976). As we have seen, such expensive, counterproductive responses to problems were a potential flaw of the K’uhul Ajaw competitive power structure (see Fig. 10.3, page 247). Collapse, transition, and transformation 263 The eighth century was a time of particularly intense status rivalry in the central Petén. This was sometimes expressed in terms of warfare between centers, but perhaps because of the dominance of Tikal, it was more often manifest in competitive architectural and ritual programs. Steep temples and twin-temple complexes, as well as palaces and ballcourts, were built at major centers throughout the region. Perhaps stimulated by leadership policy and ideology, estimated population levels rose to a peak by the beginning of the ninth century (Culbert er al. 1990, Rice and Rice 1990). Some recent population estimates for “greater” Tikal are as high as 280,000 for AD 800, and for the entire Tikal region over one— and-a—half million (Turner 1990: 321). Contrary to previous assertions, such population levels probably could be sustained by farming systems at Tikal, which we now know included extensive use of sunken swamp bajo areas surrounding the site zone (Culbert er al. 1996, Kunen er al. 2000). Still, such high levels - combined with the growing burden of elite consumption, construction, and ritual display — would certainly have strained local resources and left little margin for periodic subsistence or political difficulties (Culbert 1988). By the ninth century these stresses were becoming apparent with a process of fragmentation of power like that observed earlier in the west and at Copan in the southeast. K’atun-ending monuments and ceremo— nial architecture were erected in the late ninth century at Uaxactun, leu, Jimbal, Xultun, and other secondary centers, previously vassals of Tikal. Historical evidence indicates that this change may represent a shifting in the seats of major ceremonies corresponding to a sacred cycle of thir— teen K’atuns (P. Rice in press; see Chapter 8). In this interpretation, the shifting of ceremonial seats at the end of the thirteen-K’atun cycle is responsible for much of the change in settlement and architecture after AD 830. It also seems probable, however, that the rulers of Tikal used this ritual mechanism as a power—sharing device to avoid further compe- tition, just as one of the last Copan kings, Yax Pasaj, adopted the Council House power-sharing with local leaders in the Copan Valley (Chapter 9). Such ritual and political mechanisms for power—sharing may have effec— tively functioned for a short time to reduce conflict, but they also would have produced weaker individual polities with less prestigious leaders. In turn, the more limited authority of leaders meant less tribute labor for construction, again reducing further their prestige. This negative political feedback cycle, together with ecological stresses, led to a decline and then a cessation of public architecture at Tikal itself and a diminishing popu- lation throughout the region. Family—level decisions, afiected by cultural malaise, may have helped to lower fertility rates and initiate emigration to other areas. 264 Ancient Maya Figure 10.12 Tikal in ruins in the (Eznab) Terminal Classic period (drawn by Luis F. Luin) By AD 830 to 850 some palaces at Tikal were abandoned or reoc— cupied by non—elite populations who inscribed their walls with graffiti crudely portraying scenes of warfare and sacrifice (Schele and Math- ews 1998, Valdés and Fahsen 2004). In the mid—ninth to tenth centuries this impoverished version of central Petén culture, the Eznab complex, is found at Tikal and the surrounding region. With little polychrome, the reduced population lived in the ruins of the site’s earlier monumen— tal architecture (Fig. 10.12), much of which had ceased to host state rituals, feasts, or ceremonies (Culbert 19735 Valdés and Fahsen 2004). The last Tikal stone monument was erected in AD 869 to commemo- rate the K’atun ending at that time. The simplified ceramic assemblage of this period, together with some chronological markers of the Pasion region’s fine-paste wares, was left in Tikal’s palaces along with the house- hold debris of the new occupants (Harrison 1970, Culbert 1973). Other temples and palaces may have been the scene of formal termination ritu- als for architecture or monuments, with burning and the deposition of hundreds of broken vessels to desacralize previously holy places (Mock 1998, Freidel 1998, in press). To the north, Calakmul had been in slow decline since its loss of pres- tige in military defeats at the beginning of the eighth century. By AD 900 Calakmul and the Rio Bec centers and their hinterlands may have been Collapse, transition, and transformation 265 reduced in population to 10 percent of apogee levels of the late seventh century (Turner 1990). In this zone of the far northern Petén and south— ern Quintana R00 and Campeche (see Fig. 9.10) climatic change and reduced rainfall may well have been a contributing factor in the regional decline of great centers and the lack of a vigorous recovery (Braswell er al. 2004, Demarest er al. in press, cf. Haug er al. 2003). There, in the Terminal Classic period, populations concentrated near former public architecture, as at Tikal. In the case of Calakmul, however, the remnants of leadership in the Terminal Classic used the combined temple-palace architecture form seen earlier at Caracol and characteristic of the contem- porary Puuc centers of the north (Braswell er al. 2004). These temple— palace combined structures may indicate a greater degree of involvement in the economy, since some of them may also include workshops making lithic tools, textiles, and pottery (Braswell er al. 2004). It is equally likely, however, that these multiple functions reflect the reduction of population and consequent concentration of people and diverse activities on these high, defensible structures (Demarest, Rice, and Rice 2004b). Decline, transition, or transformation in the eastern Petén To the east and southeast, changes in the Terminal Classic period were far more complex and are still poorly understood. To the southeast the frontier Maya ldngdoms of Copan and Quirigua experienced political fragmentation in the eighth century followed by political collapse in the ninth. As we have seen (Chapter 9), the intense status rivalry manifest in ritual architecture, monuments, and (more directly) in warfare reached a critical point in the mid—eighth century, when Copan was defeated by its vassal Quirigua. The power-sharing experiments of the subsequent Copan ruler seem to have failed, being followed within sixty years by the collapse of the elite center and the cessation of public construction after AD 822 (Fash and Stuart 1991 , Fash er al. 2004). A parallel polit- ical collapse occurred at their rival center of Quirigua, where the last monument was raised at AD 810, although some constructional activity continued in the center for a few years (Sharer 1991). Controversy and debate surround what exactly happened to the general population outside of the regional centers after the political collapse of the Copan and Quirigua city-states. Bear in mind that the neighbor— ing population surrounding both Copan and Quirigua may have been only marginally involved in the Classic Maya tradition. After the politi— cal collapse of both centers, the populations of their regions returned to local traditions of ceramics and artifacts in societies with a much lower level of political complexity (Manahan 2000, 2003; Fash er al. 2004). 266 Ancient Maya There is disagreement on how long this non—elite population contin- ued, how rapidly populations declined, and how quickly artifact patterns changed from Classic to Postclassic styles. Some evidence from ceramic chronology and excavations has been interpreted as indicating a rapid collapse and decline of population after the end of the dynastic centers (Braswell 1992, Manahan 2000, 2003, Fash et al. 2004), while chronol— ogy based on the obsidian hydration dating techniques argues for a slower decline in the Copan Valley, with large populations only gradually dimin— ishing over two to three centuries (Freter 1988, 1994, Webster and Freter 1990 3 Webster et al. 2003). This type of disagreement over regional details in archaeology is common. In this case, resolution of the debate has fewer implications for the nature of the end of the Classic Maya political order than for broader interpretations of the degree of dependence of local populations on the economic or ideological leadership of the K’uhul Ajaw (see Chapter 7). Meanwhile, in the southeastern Petén and Belize, events and processes in the period from AD 750 to 950 were highly variable. In the southeast— ern Petén region of the Mopan Valley and the Maya Mountains, there was decline of some centers in population and public construction, but expan— sion of other centers as the capitals of small conquest states (Laporte 1996, 2004). Centers such as Ixtonton, Ucanal, Sacul, and others flour- ished at the expense of their neighbors, and some of these conquest states were able to survive for over two centuries. These centers also reflect influ— ences from northern Yucatan in architectural facades, monument style, and ceramics (Laporte 2004). A similar variable mosaic of some Classic centers collapsing while others flourished with new eclectic assemblages was seen throughout Belize and the eastern side of the Yucatan peninsula. Between AD 750 and 950 some sites were dramatically and rapidly abandoned, including both epicenters and their surrounding countrysides (R.E.W Adams et al. 2004), while others were stable or even grew in population and epicenter construction (A. Chase and D. Chase 2004). Yet other centers such as Lamanai and some coastal sites simply carried on, and changes in arti— fact styles and interregional contacts were gradually incorporated into local traditions (e.g. Pendergast 1986). Some areas in northern Belize and on coastal islands, peninsulas, and lagoons experienced an irregular but pronounced increase in population at the end of the Classic period and in the ninth— and tenth—century Terminal Classic era. This pattern may indicate movement into the region of refugee populations, perhaps from the collapsing polities to the west (Adams et al. 2004, Masson and Mock 2004), with some centers creating successful mercantile enclaves. Collapse, transition, and transformation 267 One of the more aggressive regional polities in the Terminal Classic— period is Belize. Despite shifts and changes, populations there continued to be high and monuments were erected until the very end of the ninth century (A. Chase and D. Chase 1987). There, and at other northern Belize sites such as Nohmul (D. Chase and A. Chase 1982), monuments, architecture, and some artifacts show influence from the Terminal Classic polities of northern Yucatan (A. Chase 1985b). Evidence of intensifica- tion of warfare has been found at some sites in Belize ~ in some cases associated with expanding conquest states such as Caracol, in others related to the introduction of northern traits. At some centers the Classic period occupations ended With grim episodes of warfare and the mass sacrifice of captives. At Colha one such massacre was that site’s “skull pit,” in which the skeletons of thirty sacrificed individuals were heaped in a mass grave (Steele et al. 1980). The overall picture on the eastern margin of the Maya world was a complex mix of historical events and processes later and more variable than the central Petén decline — and unlike the dramatic collapse seen at western Petén centers. Conquest states at sites like Caracol were able (for a time) to take advantage of the Chaos around them, while kingdoms such as Xunantunich were greatly depopulated or even abandoned (Ashmore er al. 2004). Polities continued, but with an influx of new economic and stylistic elements moving down the Caribbean coast of Yucatan from the north. It is still unclear whether these northern influences were trans- mitted by actual migrations, by the intrusion of smaller elite groups, merchants, or warriors, or by the adoption of new ideas by local elites. The historical processes may have involved a mix of such mechanisms, since some sites such as Colha and Nohmul register more dramatic changes, while others such as Lamanai appear to have added northern elements to a more continuous tradition. It is interesting that some sites, like Caracol, which thrived in the Terminal Classic, experienced a rather dramatic decline by the eleventh century and the beginnings of the Postclassic era. This pattern of mili— taristic enclave formation and then a delayed decline parallels events far to I the west at Seibal, Altar de Sacrificios, and Punta de Chimino. Indeed, studies of sculptural styles and concepts indicate considerable interac— tion between the elites of these conquest enclaves in the west and those in Belize, Yucatan, and near Lake Petén—Itza (A. Chase 1985b, Chase and Chase 1998, Ringle et al. 1998). In all cases, by the tenth to the eleventh century, the Classic—period political order had ended through— out the eastern Maya lowlands. Some kingdoms had either declined to a lower level of sociopolitical complexity or been abandoned. Others, however, had been transformed to a new economic and political order 268 Ancient Maya engaged in long—distance trade, and large—scale commodity production, with less investment in the architecture and artifacts of royal funerary cults. Florescence, conflict, and decline in the northern lowlands The period from AD 750 to 1050, which had seen collapse or decline in various zones of the southern Maya lowlands, was arguably the period of greatest florescence in northern Yucatan. It is a complex period, still poorly understood, with many debates in progress on the relative and absolute chronology of the different developments there. The distinctive forms of architecture and iconography in northern Yucatan had previ— ously been attributed to late Mexican invasions, and the Puuc cities and Chichen Itza long had been mistakenly dated to the Postclassic period after AD 1000. Chronology is still problematic in the north due to the lack of deep stratigraphy at most northern lowland sites and the scarcity of dated inscriptions. Still, a consensus is beginning to emerge among experts (e.g., Sabloff and Andrews 1986, Carmean et al. 2004, Cobos 2004) about the broad parameters of cultural history in the northern lowlands during the confusing, and at times violent, transition from the Classic to the Postclassic era. Developments in the northern lowlands can be Viewed as at least three distinctive regional developments: the innovative Puuc centers of western Yucatan, the more traditional Classic Maya kingdom of Coba and its satellites in the east, and the expanding conquest state of Chichen Itza in north central Yucatan (Robles and Andrews 1986). The Puuc As described in Chapter 9, the Puuc centers of western Yucatan (see Fig. 9.10) included sites such as Uxmal, Sayil, Labna, and Kabah with their unique stone mosaic architectural facades, free—standing arches, and multi—story palaces. As many southern kingdoms went into decline, the Puuc cities experienced major growth, perhaps absorbing elites and popu- lations fiom the south (Carmean et al. 2004, Schele and Mathews 1998: 258—260). During the AD 770 to 900 period, Puuc centers grew, popu- lations expanded into marginal areas, and Puuc elite culture drew upon an amalgam of ideas fiom the south, fiom Oaxaca, and fiom Gulf coast cultures to the west (Kowalski 1998, Carmean et a1. 2004). On a larger scale than Seibal and Caracol in the southern lowlands, the Puuc centers may have built a splendid florescence upon the very Collapse, transition, and transformation 269 collapse of other Maya states. While initially a series of small independent kingdoms, status rivalry and warfare led to the growth of larger regional alliances in the Puuc area in the ninth century. Intense warfare is testified to by fortifications around the epicenters of Uxmal and other Puuc sites and by grisly scenes of battle in murals, graffiti, and artifacts (Kowalski 1998, Schele and Mathews 1998: 234—235). Rapid growth and immigra— tion to this area, combined with status rivalry and its associated costs in labor and conflict, may have created a political environment in the late ninth and tenth centuries similar to that of the southern lowlands in the eighth century. Yet in the north, the need for centralization of authority through alliance or conquest might have been even greater given their reliance on careful cooperative husbandry of scarce water sources. The Puuc leaders responded to these challenges with programs of conquest, but they also drew upon new religious ideologies (e. g. Ringle et a]. 1998) and power-sharing arrangements involving councils of lineage heads (e.g. Carmean et al. 2004). In the Puuc centers, popolna “mat” or council houses were used to allow rulers to confer with lineage heads or local leaders (Kowalski 1987, Prem 1994, Kowalski and Dunning 1999). Such lineage council governments were more evident at some Puuc centers, such as Xcalumkin, and later would become characteristic of Postclassic states (Carmean et al. 2004, Grube 1994b). Perhaps such experiments were more successful in the Yucatan than at Copan because long-distance trade along the Gulf of Mexico, inland—coastal trade, and water storage systems had helped to evolve a more flexible set of institu- tions of leadership that was also more directly involved in the economic and subsistence aspects of society. By the late ninth and early tenth centuries, competition, warfare, and alliance had ended in the unification of most of the western Puuc cities under the leadership of the alliance of the king of Uxmal, identified in texts and monuments as “Lord Chaak,” and his associates (Grube 1994b: 323—324, Schele and Mathews 1998). This ruler, through sharing power with other leaders, revived much of the symbolism and monuments of the Classic-period K’uhul Ajaw system of divine rulership. The most spectacular of the snuctures at Uxmal (Fig. 10.13), with their elabo— rate mosaic motifs, were constructed during his reign (Kowalski 1987; Kowalski and Dunning 1999). By AD 900, Uxmal’s urban area covered over twenty square kilometers and the site was linked by sacbe cause- ways to a number of subordinate centers (Dunning 1992; Carmean er a1. 2004). These expansionistic efforts affected the Coba sphere of influence in eastern Yucatan, where fortifications were constructed around satel— lite centers in a futile effort to defend them from western Puuc conflicts (Robles and Andrews 1986 3 Suhler and Freidel 1998, Suhler er al. 2004). 270 Ancient Maya Figure 10.13 The Nunnery Quadrangle at Uxmal Termination rituals of architectural destruction at these sites and subse— quent occupation with western “Cehpech—style” Puuc ceramics indicate that the conquest of these centers was one factor in the decline of Coba itself. Ultimately, however, the Terminal Classic political formations of the Puuc cities also declined. The stresses of status rivalry, warfare, and popu— lation increase may have been exacerbated by drought (Hodell at al. 1995) and by conflict with the competing regional alliance of Chichen Itza (Robles and Andrews 1986; Andrews and Robles 1985; Cobos 2004). Shortly after the reign of “Lord Chac” all the monumental construc— tion ceased, and by AD 950 the city of Uxmal was in decline. Other great Puuc cities such as Sayil followed a similar trajectory and most were abandoned by the eleventh century (Carmean er al. 2004 ,' Tourtellot 22: al. 1990; Tourtellot and Sabloff 1994). Even with innovative charac— teristics in economics and ideology, this modified form of Classic Maya political organization came to an end. Here, however, in contrast to the western Petén, Postclassic lineage—based kingdoms and alliances quickly developed from the Puuc kingdoms. Coba and eastern Yucatan As described in Chapter 9, the great sprawling city of Coba in eastern Yucatan and related centers were culturally very close to the southern Collapse, transition, and transformation 271 lowlands in architecture, monuments, and all aspects of material culture. This similarity was probably due to the settlement of eastern Yucatan and Quintana Roo by peoples from the south seeking its similar wet rain forest environment broken by lakes and bajos. It is not surprising, then, that the chronology of the decline of Coba and the eastern Yucatan centers correlates somewhat more closely with that of some of the Maya kingdoms of the southern lowlands. During its apogee, Coba constructed a system of causeways to connect its epicenters with satellite kingdoms. By the ninth century, the Coba kingdom was experiencing significant pressure from the Puuc hegemony to the west and the rising power of Chichen Itza to the northeast. Coba may have sought to hold together its kingdom through defensive construc— tions and the use of its causeways to supply perimeter sites (Suhler and Freidel 1998). The largest causeway ran over one hundred kilometers, connecting Coba to a series of satellite centers to the west, and ending at Yaxuna, an important center which appears to have been the first line of defense against the expanding alliances to the west and later against the Chichen Itza expansion. By the late ninth century, Yaxuna was surrounded by concentric encircling defensive walls (Freidel 1986c, Suhler and Freidel 1998, Suhler at al. 2004). As the stresses and status rivalry of the Terminal Classic intensified, other centers in northern Yucatan were fortified by defensive wall systems. Ek Balam, Chaccob, Cuca, Dzonot Ake, and other centers had fortification systems of encir— cling walls (Webster 1978; Bey 22: al. 1997, Ringle at al. 2004; Suhler 22: al. 2004) that were remarkably similar to those in the Petexbatun over a century earlier (Fig. 10.14). Battered by Terminal Classic competing hegemonies, cut off from its traditional southern trade in elite goods, and perhaps under added stress fiom the beginnings of a drought, the Coba hegemony of eastern Yucatan and Quintana Roo disintegrated. Coba itself had a greatly reduced popu— lation by the tenth century and its satellite centers were either abandoned or reoccupied by groups with a new ceramic tradition, most often the “Sotuta” style of ceramics of the north central Yucatan conquest state of Chichen Itza. Chichen I tza The third major player in these final political struggles of the Terminal Classic period of Maya civilization was the complex and enigmatic city of Chichen Itza and its expanding regional state. Views on the dating and cultural affiliates of Chichen Itza have changed radically in recent years. It was long believed to be a fully Postclassic state established by conquering Toltec invaders from central Mexico (e.g. Morley 1946). This Mexican 272 Ancient Maya Map 1 CUCA Yucatan, Mexico Figure 10.14 Map of defensive walls around Cuca, Yucatan, Mexico (from Webster 1979: Map 1) invasion hypothesis was based on many stylistic elements believed to be traceable to highland Mexico, including atlantean columns, feathered serpent imagery, colonnaded halls, chacmool sacrificial altars, zzompanzlz' carved stone skull racks, and warriors with Toltec—style armor, head— dresses, shields, and weaponry. Many of these elements, and the layout of some major structures at Chichen (Fig. 10.15), were closely paral— lel to structures and art at the Toltec capital center of Tula, Hidalgo in Central Mexico. Furthermore, the sixteenth—century oral religious and historical sources, including the Chilam B’alam K’atun prophecies (a “circular” history/prophecy) associated Chichen with the Itza Maya and characterized them as foreigners with new cults of human sacrifice and idolatry. Collapse, uansition, and Uansformation 273 Figure 10.15 Temple of the Warriors at Chichen Itza, Yucatan, Mexico Despite these evidences, there were always problems with the Postclas— sic dating of Chichen Itza (e.g. Kubler 1961, 1962). In the last twenty years of excavations, detailed ceramic studies and reassessments of art and ethnohistory have revised the dating of Chichen Itza, placing it primarily, if not entirely, in the Terminal Classic period, from about AD 750/800 to 1050. This placement makes Chichen contemporary with the end of the Classic kingdom of Coba and its satellites in the east and coeval with the Puuc fiorescence to the west and south (e.g. Bey er al. 1997; Cobos 1998, 2004). Indeed, we now know that the rulers of Chichen Itza inter— acted with the Puuc kings, such as Lord Chaak, sometimes in alliance and sometimes at war (Prem 1994; Schele and Mathews 1998: 257—290; Carmean er al. 2004). Many centers under the Coba realm were conquered and absorbed into these new hegemonies — first by the Puuc centers, led by Uxmal, and later by Chichen Itza (Andrews and Robles 1985 3 Suhler and Freidel 1998; Schele and Freidel 1990: 346—376). As the Coba regional kingdom rapidly declined in the east, the western Puuc and northern Chichen hegemonies came into conict (Robles and Andrews 1986). The Puuc cities eventually lost this struggle — not only because of pressure and competition from Chichen, but also due to a delayed manifestation of the same stresses that had ended many of the Classic kingdoms to the south: the high costs of status rivalry, its stimulation of warfare and population 274 Ancient Maya increase, and the consequent ecological stresses. Increased aridity may have also contributed to the decline of the Puuc centers (Hoddell er al. 1995, Robichaux 2002). By AD 1000 to 1050, Chichen Itza had become the dominant power in northern Yucatan. The short—lived success of the Chichen Itza hegemony was probably due to a number of factors. New concepts, some reworked ancient Maya ideas and some of Mexican origin, helped the rise of the power of Chichen as both a conquest state and a religious pilgrimage center (e.g. Ringle et al. 1998). The influence of Chichen Itza and its new styles and ideologies was felt at many of the remaining enclaves at the end of the Classic period, including Seibal in Guatemala and Nohmul in Belize (e.g. Tourtellot and Gonzales 2004, D. Chase and A. Chase 1982; A. Chase 1985b). Chichen Itza’s Terminal Classic success can also be attributed to its greater involvement in interregional sea trade fiom its port at Isla Cerritos (Andrews er al. 1988, 1989, Andrews 1984). Chichen’s long—distance trade in commodities such as salt, textiles, and cacao may have been on a greater scale than in the more regionally focused Classic Maya kingdoms (Freidel 1986b). Combined with its new cults and mili— tarism, this mercantile activity may have helped Chichen to overcome its Classic Maya and Puuc rivals. Chichen Itza’s ascendancy was, however, a very short—lived one. Within a century, perhaps just a few decades, Chichen itself declined (Cobos 2004). The Itza polity may have been very predatory in its degree of reliance on conquest and tribute. With the decline of its vanquished Puuc and eastern Maya rivals, Chichen’s flow of tribute resources and labor would have ended, precipitating its own decline — probably by about AD 1050 or 1100 (Robles and Andrews 1986). In a sense, the battling alliances of Coba, Uxmal, and Chichen in the Terminal Classic marked the death throes of the Classic—period political order. With the decline of Chichen, successor states of the Postclassic reigned over Yucatan, albeit with less spectacular architecture and some— what lower population levels. Important aspects of Classic civilization, such as the K’atun—centered rituals and histories, continued in the subse— quent centuries. But the great charismatic cults of the K’uhul Ajaw and many other aspects of Classic—period high culture did not survive the interregional struggles of the Puuc cities and Chichen. Rethinking the “collapse” of ancient Maya civilization The phrase “the collapse” or “the fall” of a civilization is a colorful, but misleading, term. Unlike poetic metaphors that guide our collo— quial descriptions of the trajectory of cultural traditions, civilizations Collapse, transition, and transformation 275 never “die.” These anthropomorphic descriptions ignore the fact that a civilization is a complex configuration of institutions built upon a foun— dation of shared religious, political, and economic ideas and concepts. Even after major catastrophes, traumas, and declines, these elements can continue and be transformed into subsequent new configurations. Such was clearly the case with the “fall” of Rome or the “collapse” of Classical civilization as it is referred to in common parlance and even in some historical studies. The Roman Empire actually declined in the west through a slow and irregular process over several centuries, with episodes of revitalization and regional variations until the fifth century, when the western Roman Empire broke up into a series of Gothic kingdoms. Then, the eastern empire continued and flourished under Byzantium, and even the western Gothic states maintained many institutions fiom ancient Rome. Underestimating the complexity of Classic Maya civilization itself, archaeologists initially expected a simpler process, a clear, unicausal “collapse,” for the end of Classic Maya civilization. Yet, like the Roman Empire, an erratic and very complex — but definable — series of events and processes occurred, as we have seen, between AD 750 and 1050 in the Classic lowland Maya civilization. Beginning in the eighth century, caused by problems and stresses with even greater time depth, the west— ern and southeastern Classic Maya kingdoms began to disintegrate into chaos (as with the Petexbatun), to fragment into smaller units (as with the Copan Valley), or to reinvent themselves as militaristic enclaves with modified forms of the K’uhul Ajaw system (as at Seibal and Altar). Refugees from these collapsing southern and western political systems moved to the east and north, causing population increase in parts of Belize and Yucatan. In the north, Gulf of Mexico coastal trade routes and the influx of southern populations may have initially provided preliminary advantages for aggressive innovative leadership, helping to stimulate the Puuc florescence and its more “Mexicanized” Chichen Itza version. Yet, as with the Terminal Classic Seibal enclave, attempts to revive the K’uhul Ajaw system, albeit buttressed by systems of lineage councils, ultimately failed. They still suffered from some of the same stresses and structural problems inherent in Classic Maya competitive divine kingship and status rivalry that had brought down the southern cities. With the decline of the Puuc centers and Chichen, the Classic Maya political order had ended, and its theater—state kingdoms had been aban— doned, or were replaced, or transformed into Postclassic polities with a different political and economic rationale. What had disappeared was the unique Classic—period combination of theater—state politics and divine kingship with a complex rain forest adaptation that had evolved for over 276 Ancient Maya two millennia in the southern lowlands. The end of Classic civilization took with it the magnificent (but costly) legitimating monuments, archi— tecture, and art of these theater—states. Ultimately, the structural stresses inherent in this system of competing K’uhul Ajaws led to elite prolif— eration, massive labor costs, warfare, and nonelite demographic growth that together strained — and at times, completely contradicted — their brilliant ecological adaptation. In the face of such internal strains, as well as external competition, lowland Maya political systems collapsed or were replaced by new kinds of Maya states that were more closely tied into interregional Mesoamerican economies. The Classic-period “holy lords” had passed into history, but Maya civilization and the Maya tradi— tion continued. 11 The legacy of the Classic Maya civilization: Postclassic, Colonial, and Modern traditions While the focus of this text is on the Classic period of Maya civiliza— tion, it is important to take note of the enduring tradition that followed. The disappearance or reduction of the Classic hallmarks in architecture, monuments, and art had led Mayanist scholars to View the Postclas— sic as an epoch of decline and impoverishment. Indeed, one form of the traditional chronology labels the Late Postclassic in Yucatan as the “Decadent Period” (e.g. Thompson 1966). Such perspectives misper— ceive the nature of the Classic to Postclassic transition and the significance of elite architecture, artifacts, monuments, and even writing. All of these Classic—period hallmarks of “florescence,” “greatness,” or a “golden age” (in colloquial terms) were in fact specific instruments of elite ideologi— cal and political power. They helped generate power for the rulers in the particular type of political system of the Classic period by enhancing performance in theater—state rituals and by solidifying fealty or alliance through propagandistic monuments and history. These Classic—period hallmarks should be Viewed as important elements of their political system that were not always particularly beneficial to the society as a whole (e.g. Sabloff and Rathje 1975). By the eighth century, if not sooner, the cost to the economic and ecological systems that supported these elite instru— ments of power had become onerous, contributing to the demise of this political system. Viewed in objective economic terms, many Postclassic states were larger and more successful than their flamboyant Classic- period antecedents. The Postclassic: What ended, what continued, and What changed In Yucatan, the Postclassic states after the Puuc and Chichen declines were built on a more flexible set of political and economic institutions that were also more similar to those of polities elsewhere in Mesoamerica. The mulrepal system of governance by councils of lineage leaders focused far less political power and religious authority in a single individual. Lineages 277 ...
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Demarest-End+of+Classic+Maya+Civ - 10 The end of Classic...

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