New Book: Ancient Maya Politics

Ancient Maya Politics: A Political Anthropology of the Classic Period, 150-900 CE by Simon Martin. From Cambridge University Press, 2020.

2020 has seen the arrival of an important new book by Simon Martin, a frequent contributor to Maya Decipherment. It’s no exaggeration to say that Ancient Maya Politics is a pivotal work, crucial for both archaeology and epigraphy. A must-read and re-read for students, scholars, and anyone keenly interested in how we access and interpret the political world of the ancient Maya.

From Cambridge University Press:

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.

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