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Ancient Middle America

Spring 2019 Calendar

 map: topographic
  map: Mesoamerica and Its Cultural Areas
 Pre-Hispanic Mesoamerica

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Thursday, 13-Jun-2024 19:42:16 GMT


Map of Major Mayan Archaeological Sites

Map of the
Mayan World


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Maya Lords of the Jungle

60 min., 1981, VC 212


Abstract Terms / Concepts Notes
Cultures Sites Individuals Bibliography
/ Resources

"Depicts . . . archaeological work on the Maya civilization in the Yucatán Peninsula and in Central America. Discusses how it developed, why it declined, and what significance . . . finds and interpretations have."



Maya stelae of
Copán, Honduras,
Frederick Catherwood, 1839

Terms / Concepts:

  • raised field agriculture

    • "intensive agriculture"

    • Mayan version of chinampa agriculture

    • about 1/3 of the Maya area is swamp

      • raised field agriculture is a good way to use this land

      • produces more than the growers need for themselves, therefore they produced a surplus

      • 500 B.C. Pulltrouser Swamp was a complex operation

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  • slash-and-burn agriculture

  • religious syncretism

    • blood sacrifice offering to the gods still takes place in Catholic ceremonies

  • calendar glyphs

  • graffiti

  • Classic Maya cylindrical vases

    • note "ritual scenes"
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  • Water Lily Jaguar

  • Water Lily Blossom and fish symbolize royal authority

    • The word for water lily in Yucatec is nab

      • nab also = "water bounded"

        • shallow body of water that is bounded in some way, like a lake, like a canal, is also nab

    • the water Lily is associated with life after death

    • symbolizes power, greatness, royalty, even the earth's surface above the ground

      • abundance, wealth, greatness are associated with the manipulation of the water lily

    • water lilies fertilize the soil, and feed the fish

    • are associated with raised fields

  • crosses are not Christian, but represent the "Tree of Life"

    • which was occasionally shown as a raised field

    • the tree of life spanned the lower world, the earth and the heavens

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  • Dresden Codex

  • cartush

  • "Pan-Maya" phenomena

  • potsherds


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  • "dirt archaeology" vs. interpretive

  • note old stereotypes (pre 1950s) of the Maya

  • At Palenque they thought that they were "time worshippers," but inscriptions are not dealing with time worship but with actual Mayan history. "We are talking about the personal history of Pre-Columbian MesoAmerica in terms of specific individuals and their relatives," Linda Schele. "In the Preclassic, the masks on the pyramids represent the Gods. In the Classic they are becoming individual divine kings."

    • for one of the first times we are now talking about the history of the Maya in terms of particular individuals

    • for the first time we can talk about American history as we do European history

  • The idea that the Maya were time worshippers "preoccupied archaeologists" for over 50 years
  • note use of hallucinogens

    • smoking, drinking, injecting, imbibing, "using their bodies to communicate with the gods"

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  • Maya

  • Lamanai (David Pendergast, Chris Jones)

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  • Tikál (Guatemala)

    • Chris Jones: "You will get nowhere [understanding the Maya and their collapse] just studying the elites without studying the support people."

    • ca. 100,000 at A.D. 800, twice the size of Rome at that time

    • A.D. 300 - ca. 900 Tikál was a thriving [Classic] city

    • ca. A.D. fall of cities

  • Palenque (Chiapas)

  • Lamanai (Belize)

  • Merida (Yucatán capitol)

    • density of sites in northern Yucatán = 1 / every 80 mi. sq.

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  • Chichén Itzá (Yucatán)

  • Copán (Honduras)

  • Komchen

    • near Merida

    • salt trade to New River in Belize

    • Preclassic: were traders even before the Classic Period

      • were not dependent on slash-and-burn agriculture

    • Will Andrews

  • Pulltrouser Swamp (Belize)

    • 500 B.C. Pulltrouser Swamp was a complex operation

    • is not correlated with a surrounding community like Cerros is

    • Bill Turner

  • Cuello

    • at 2,000 B.C. = "the beginning of Mayan Culture"

    • note circular shaped structure at Cuello

    • Norman Hammond

  • Cerros

    • raised fields

    • David Fridel

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  • Pacal (4 X 20 years old)

    • "Lord of Lords"

    • Lord Shield Pacal

    • first glyph, A.D. 603, born - died, A.D. 683

  • Chan Baklum

    • Pacal's first-born son

      • identified by having 6 fingers

  • Kam Chul, son of Pacal

  • Norman Hammond (Cuello)

  • Diego de Landa (3rd Bishop of Merida, Yucatán)

  • Frederick Catherwood (1840s)

  • John L. Stephens (1840s)

  • Alfred Maudslay (early English archaeologist with camera)

  • Chris Jones (Tikál Mapping Project)

  • Linda Schele (epigrapher)

  • Will Andrews

  • Norberto Gonzales (map analyst)
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