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Marcus_Maya_archaeology - Journal of Archaeological...

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Journal of Archaeological Research, Vol. 11, No. 2, June 2003 ( C 2003) Recent Advances in Maya Archaeology Joyce Marcus 1 This paper focuses on the discoveries of the last decade in Maya archaeology, and assesses their impact on previous models and synthetic frameworks. Although the bibliography includes 700 items published during the last 10 years, it is not exhaustive; on the contrary, a frustratingly large number of discoveries had to be omitted. Two areas exploding with new research are (1) the elicitation of a greater variety of data from hieroglyphic texts, and (2) a series of chemical and biological breakthroughs in the analysis of human burials. The former make it easier to assess the role of elite actors or “agents” in processes of sociopolitical change. The latter hold out the hope of documenting warfare (through skeletal trauma), migration (by tracing tooth enamel isotopes to ground water), status or gender differences in diet (through bone chemistry), and biological connections of individuals to each other and to earlier populations (through DNA). By combining these new data, we are on our way to integrating humanism and science, and to treating Maya polities as case studies in primary or secondary state formation. KEY WORDS: Maya; sociopolitical evolution; state formation and collapse; warfare; drought; trauma; diet. INTRODUCTION For a previous overview I chose the title Where is Lowland Maya Archaeology Headed? (Marcus,1995a).Itseemedareasonablequestion,becauseatthatmoment it was unclear whether Maya archaeology would go scientific or humanistic. So strong was the tug of war between these approaches in anthropology that at least one department, that of Stanford, actually split into two programs. We now know the answer to my question: during the last decade, Mayanists headed off in three directions. Some redoubled their interest in traditional an- thropological topics such as the nature of political economies, the emergence of 1 Museum of Anthropology, 1109 Geddes, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48109-1079; e-mail: [email protected] 71 1059-0161/03/0600-0071/0 C 2003 Plenum Publishing Corporation
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72 Marcus sociopolitical hierarchies, the identification of primary and secondary state forma- tion, the everyday life of commoners, and the evolutionary impact of warfare. Oth- ers chose hard-science questions of wetland management, tropical deforestation, climate change, the DNA profiles of long-dead Maya, and the use of isotopic anal- yses to reconstruct both ancient diet and region of origin. Still a third group found the trendy themes of the 1980s postmodernist anthropology irresistible, seeking to make a contribution to agency, practice theory, performance, resistance, gender, and power. Fortunately, these divergent approaches did not split Maya archaeology into separate programs. Indeed, many scholars continue to integrate scientific and humanistic data (Bell et al. , 2003; Brady and Ashmore, 1999; Braswell, 2003; Dunning et al. , 1999; Fash, 1994, 2001; Fash and Andrews, in press; Fash and Sharer, 1991; Hammond, 1991, 1999; Sabloff, 1990, 2003; Scarborough, 1998; Sharer, 1994, 1996; Sheets, 1992, 2002). This integration of science and human-
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