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Culture Areas and Interaction Spheres: Contrasting Approaches to the Emergence of Civilization in the Maya Lowlands

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  20 January 2017

David A. Freidel*
Affiliation:
Department of Anthropology, Southern Methodist University, Dallas, TX 75275

Abstract

Recently several models have been proposed for the origin and evolution of lowland Maya civilization. These models share a basic spatial framework, the culture area, which is logically tied to a particular theoretical approach to the emergence of lowland Maya civilization. The culture area approach rests on the premise that sociocultural innovation occurs as a localized response to local natural and social conditions. Such innovation subsequently diffuses outside the local area through successful competition with alternatives. The empirical archaeological expectations of models based upon this approach are not satisfied at the site of Cerros, a Late Preclassic center on the coast of northern Belize. An alternative approach, the interaction sphere, better accommodates the evidence from Cerros and other Preclassic sites in the Maya Lowlands. The culture area models, the evidence from Cerros, and the interaction sphere approach and its theoretical ramifications are discussed.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © The Society for American Archaeology 1979

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