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Reconstructing Classic Maya Socioeconomic Differentiation and the Collapse at Dos Pilas, Peten, Guatemala

  • Joel W. Palka (a1)

Three field seasons of extensive residential archaeology at Dos Pilas, Peten, Guatemala, provide important data for the examination of ancient Maya social structure and the Classic Period collapse in the Petexbatun region. A sampling strategy guiding excavations in structures of different size and architectural configuration enables us to reconstruct the multifaceted, segmented nature of Maya social inequalities and helps to elucidate the effects of the collapse on the lives of people of various socioeconomic ranks and statuses. Other significant findings of the project include hieroglyphic vessels and stone sculptures in nonroyal elite domestic compounds, postcollapse occupation in the settlement, as well as continued craft production and interregional trade into Terminal Classic times and after elite abandonment of the site. The results of household archaeology at Dos Pilas, which demonstrate that elites were affected first and foremost during the collapse, support theories of intensified elite competition, socio-political instability, and warfare for the Maya downfall in the Petexbatun Region, and not environmental degradation or breakdowns in interregional trade.

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Kelli Carmean 1991 Architectural Labor Investment and Social Stratification at Sayil, Yucatán, Mexico. Latin American Antiquity 2: 151165.

Julia A. Hendon 1991 Status and Power in Classic Maya Society: An Archaeological Study. American Anthropologist 93: 894918.

Ellen R. Kintz 1983 Class Structure in a Classic Maya City. In Coba: A Classic Maya Metropolis, edited by William Folan , Ellen R. Kintz , and Laraine A. Fletcher , pp. 161178. Academic Press, New York.

Robert McC. Netting 1982 Some Truths on Household Size and Wealth. American Behavioral Scientist 25: 641662.

William Rathje , and Randall H. McGuire 1982 Rich Men … Poor Men. American Behavioral Scientist 25: 705715.

Michael E. Smith 1987 Household Possessions and Wealth in Agrarian States: Implications for Archaeology. Journal of Anthropological Archaeology 6: 297335.

David L. Webster , and Nancy Gonlin 1988 Household Remains of the Humblest Maya. Journal of Field Archaeology 15: 169190.

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Ancient Mesoamerica
  • ISSN: 0956-5361
  • EISSN: 1469-1787
  • URL: /core/journals/ancient-mesoamerica
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