Mesoamerica_Lec3_Maya_2007 - RISE OF CIVILIZATION April 6...

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1 R ISE OF C IVILIZATION [Mesoamerica Lec3 Maya 2007.doc] April 6, 2007 M ESOAMERICA III THE M AYA © Terence N. D’Altroy [sources: Blanton et al. 1993; Wenke and Olszewski 2006; de Montmollin class notes; Schele and Miller 1986; Price and Feinman 1993; Webster 1997] 1. Maya civilization: overview a. long a fascinating, but enigmatic part of prehistory of Americas b. hidden monuments in jungle 1. Stephens and Catherwood: Incidents of Travel in Yucatan 2. civilization gone hundreds of years before Spanish arrival c. Kidder: overflights in 1920s d. new sites still being encountered 1. archaeologists stumble onto monuments in overgrowth 2. region: SE Mesoamerica a. unifying/defining features 1. sharing of Maya languages 2. language family: one of 3 main language families in Mesoamerica a. Uto-Aztecan: Nahuatl in Central Highlands b. Oto-Manguean: e.g., Zapotec, Mixtec in South-Central Highlands b. geographic scope 1. Maya speakers occupied 300,000 sq km a. i.e., 1/3 of Mesoamerica c. geographic subdivisions: different environmental and cultural historical trajectories 1. Northern Lowlands 2. Central Lowlands 3. Southern Highlands, and Pacific Coast d. Central Lowlands: focus of formation of Maya civilization takes place within Central Lowlands 1. tropical forest 3. considerable revision of Maya civilization in last 20 years a. traditional conceptions 1. urbanism : empty civic-ceremonial centers 2. politics : major unified state or civilization 3. economy : slash and burn agriculture 4. integration : peaceful theocratic integration b. recent revisions: last 20 years 1. urbanism: development of urban centers a. e.g., Tikal: 60,000 inhabitants 1
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2. politics: multiple competing, allying polities 3. economy: mixed intensive agriculture 4. integration: warfare was far more significant than previously thought a. but perhaps heavily ceremonial and political in intent 4. advances due to considerable efforts by range of researchers a. archaeologists 1. intensive settlement pattern survey 2. excavations b. epigraphers 1. cracking of [ 80% of Maya inscriptions within last decade c. art historians 1. central focus on iconographic content S ETTLEMENT P ATTERNS AND D EMOGRAPHY 1. regional patterning: conventional wisdom a. relatively empty civic-ceremonial centers 1. inhabited only by priestly elites 2. surrounded by dispersed farming population b. forest environment: forced dispersal of population 1. shifting settlements around centers 2. according to demands of shifting cultivation c. periodic assembly of population during ritual cycles d. parallels drawn 1. Olmecs 2. Chavín 3. Egypt: but without any population concentrations e. case seemed contrary to normal development of civilization 1. i.e., where civilization = urbanism 2. inception of regional surveys: 1950s a. brought about radically different perception of nature of settlement b. recent focus on detailed mapping of cities 1. immediate hinterlands 2. transects a. leading out from major centers b. or between foci of dense population
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Mesoamerica_Lec3_Maya_2007 - RISE OF CIVILIZATION April 6...

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