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Ancient Maya Politics
A Political Anthropology of the Classic Period 150–900 CE

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  • Date Published: June 2022
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9781108705233

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About the Authors
  • The Classic Maya have long presented scholars with vexing problems. One of the longest running and most contested of these, and the source of deeply polarized interpretations, has been their political organization. Using recently deciphered inscriptions and fresh archaeological finds, Simon Martin argues that this particular debate can be laid to rest. He offers a comprehensive re-analysis of the issue in an effort to answer a simple question: how did a multitude of small kingdoms survive for some six hundred years without being subsumed within larger states or empires? Using previously unexploited comparative and theoretical approaches, Martin suggests mechanisms that maintained a 'dynamic equilibrium' within a system best understood not as an array of individual polities but an interactive whole. With its rebirth as text-backed historical archaeology, Maya studies has entered a new phase, one capable of building a political anthropology as robust as any other we have for the ancient world.

    • Offers a thorough re-examination of Classic Maya political organization
    • Explores relevant political theory in ways previously unseen in Maya studies
    • Brings readers up to date with the latest advances in knowledge and interpretation
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    • Winner, 2021 R.R. Hawkins Award, Association of American Publishers

    Reviews & endorsements

    ‘… a comprehensive overview of Maya political institutions … Martin offers some valuable insights likely to be of use to those with an interest in comparative history and the global evolution of political institutions, diplomacy, war and conflict.’ A. A. Nofi, The NYMAS Review

    ‘Ancient Maya Politics provides a record of the political system and history of the Classic Period of Maya civilization, from 400 BCE to 200 CE and through its decline after 800 CE … Strongly recommended for specialists in Mesoamerican history and society.’ E. N. Anderson, Choice

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    Product details

    • Date Published: June 2022
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9781108705233
    • length: 542 pages
    • dimensions: 253 x 175 x 29 mm
    • weight: 1.01kg
    • contains: 81 b/w illus. 9 maps 8 tables
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    1. Introduction: the questions
    Part I. Agendas in Classic Maya Politics:
    2. Modelling the Maya
    3. On archaeopolitics
    4. Worlds in words
    Part II. Epigraphic Data on Classic Maya Politics:
    5. Identity
    6. Constitution
    7. Transcendence
    8. Matrimony
    9. Conflict
    10. Hierarchy
    11. Coda
    Part III. A Political Anthropology of the Classic Maya
    12. Classic Maya networks
    13. Defining classic Maya political culture
    14. Hegemony in practice and theory
    15. Summary and conclusions: a society of kings.

  • Author

    Simon Martin, University of Pennsylvania
    Simon Martin is an Associate Curator and Keeper at the Penn Museum and Adjunct Associate Professor of Anthropology, University of Pennsylvania. He is the co-author of Chronicle of the Maya Kings and Queens (2008) and Courtly Art of the Ancient Maya (2004). He is currently the 2019–2020 Kislak Chair for the Study of the History and Cultures of the Early Americas at the Library of Congress, Washington DC.


    • Winner, 2021 R.R. Hawkins Award, Association of American Publishers
    • Winner, 2021 PROSE Excellence Award in Humanities, Association of American Publishers
    • Winner, 2021 James Henry Breasted Prize, American Historical Association

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