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Journal of World Prehistory, Vol. 13, No.

2, 1999

Classic Lowland Maya Political Organization: A Review


Lisa J. Lucero1

This paper reviews recent archaeological research concerning Classic Maya lowland political systems (ca. A.D. 250-1000). It focuses specifically on (1) subsistence practices revealed through the analysis of prehistoric climate, available resources, agricultural technologies, and diet; (2) population distribution, density, and size revealed through the analysis of settlement practices and architectural function; (3) social differentiation and interaction revealed through the analysis of burial practices, diet and health, architecture, and production, consumption, and exchange patterns; and (4) ancient Maya political economy (how it was funded) revealed through the analysis of community organization, ritual activities, the Classic Maya collapse, and warfare. It finally ends with a brief discussion of the future of Maya archaeology. A key factor that recurs throughout this review is the noticeable amount of variability that existedvaried resources, subsistence strategies, settlement practices, and social and political systems. An understanding of this variability is the key to appreciate fully the Classic Maya.
KEY WORDS: Maya lowlands; political organization; Classic period; Maya archaeology.

INTRODUCTION This paper complements recent summaries including Grove (1997), who focuses on the origins and legacy of the Olmec, and those by Fash (1994), Marcus (1983, 1995), and Sabloff (1990), who each discuss the history of Maya archaeology. Fash (1994) and Marcus (1995; see Willey, 1997) also emphasize the trend of using multiple lines of evidence in Maya
1 Department

of Sociology and Anthropology, New Mexico State University, Box 30001, MSC 3BV, Las Cruces, New Mexico 88003-8001. e-mail: lislucer@nmsu.edu
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0892-7537/99/06100-0211$16.00/0 1999 Plenum Publishing Corporation

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archaeology (e.g., articulating archaeological and epigraphic records, integrating household and settlement archaeology, and using ethnoarchaeology and ethnographic analogy). Marcus (1995) provides an excellent synthesis of Maya prehistory, beginning with the Archaic period and ending with the Postclassic. Andrews (1993) synthesizes recent research on the Postclassic Maya through a focus on trade, architecture, settlement history, and political and community organization. In this paper, my goal is to review topics that bear on elucidating Classic Maya political organization (ca. A.D. 250-1000) (Table I). I begin with a summary of current views on ancient Maya political organization and follow this with sections on subsistence practices, population distribution, density, and size, social differentiation and interaction, and political economy. CLASSIC MAYA POLITICAL ORGANIZATION The varied natural landscape of the Maya lowlands has resulted in what we see today in the archaeological recordevidence for diverse subsistence strategies, techniques, and settlement patterns (e.g., Demarest, 1996; Dunning et al, 1998a; Fedick, 1996a; Pyburn, 1998; Sanders, 1977). Consequently, several models have arisen that attempt to explain Classic Maya political organization, not all necessarily mutually exclusive. The two major categories of models typically either propose strongly centralized or weakly centralized polities. The former type includes regional states (e.g., A. Chase and D. Chase, 1996a; Clark et al., 1999; Culbert 1997a; Folan, 1992; Folan et al., 1995a, b; Marcus, 1976) and superstates (e.g., Martin and Grube, 1994, 1995). The latter type includes galactic polities [theater-states (e.g., Demarest, 1992,1996)] segmentary states (e.g., de Montmollin, 1995,1997; Fox and Cook, 1996; Fox et al., 1996; Houston, 1997; McAnany, 1995; Pohl and Pohl, 1994), city-states (e.g., Abrams, 1995; Webster, 1997a), and feudal states (e.g., Adams, 1995, 1996). There are also archaeologists who posit that ancient Maya polities went through cycles of centralization and decentralization (Marcus, 1993, 1998). Most of the proponents of these various
Table I. Lowland Maya Chronology Middle Preclassic, ca. 1000-400 B.C. Late Preclassic, ca. 400 B.C.-A.D. 250 Protoclassic, ca. 50 B.C.-A.D. 250 Early Classic, ca. A.D. 250-550 Late Classic, ca. A.D. 550-850 Terminal Classic, ca. A.D. 850-1000 Postclassic, ca. A.D. 1000-conquest

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models make general statements about political power that either emphasize the importance of controlling and/or managing critical resources (e.g., Culbert, 1997a; Ford, 1986) or the inability to control such resources (e.g., Demarest, 1996; Pyburn, 1997). The issue is not that any single model takes precedence but that the varied landscape resulted in diverse organizational needs and responses. Subsequently, different models may apply to specific local and/or regional areas. The difference was a matter of scaledifferent Maya polities are located on a spectrum from small local polities to large regional ones. Shared features, however, include kin-based systems and involvement in intercenter marriage alliances, visits, and warfare, and the exchange of prestige goods (cf. Marcus, 1973,1976). The inability to apply a single model to the Maya lowlands has led some archaeologists to suggest Classic Maya political systems were unstable (Demarest, 1996; Pohl and Pohl, 1994). Was it really unstable, in view of the fact that some form of it survived for over a millennium? What might appear to reflect instability instead might indicate the diverse political systems that actually existed in the Maya area. Fox and others present the historical background of how Maya "states" have been interpreted. "For decentralists, key theoretical issues are determining (1) the way in which centripetal kingship interacted with centrifugal-tending kinship and (2) the extent of organic solidarity . . . versus mechanical solidarity . . ." (Fox et al., 1996, p. 798). They emphasize common features of the Maya, including, for example, how Maya kings promoted unity as ritual specialists, politicians, and marriage brokers in regalritual centers, the existence of ranked communities (and likely ranked lineages), and the fact that texts make no mention of a bureaucracy, standing army, or formal code of laws. When lineages ally with others, they begin to grow and their power increases, the ultimate result being a segmentary state. In this lineage-based system, "[T]he Maya community was made up of intermarrying patrilineages that shared a patron deity and replicated this pattern within successively larger aggregations" (Fox and Cook, 1996, p. 811; see McAnany, 1995, pp. 113, 116). Because these systems had less power over areas farther from core areas, peripheral centers could easily change allegiances; it is for this reason that segmentary states can remain flexible and can fluctuate in size. Similarly, Demarest (1992,1996) proposes that ritual and ideology (theater state) played a major role in maintaining political power, especially since economic control was not an option. Adams (1995) believes that regional states existed in the Maya lowlands by the Early Classic based on rank size, where 1-5 courtyards make up a country estate, 5-10 a local and regional administrative center, and 10-40 political/economic capitals. For example, Rio Azul may have been conquered by Tikal ca. A.D. 385. The Rio Azul area, located at the northern

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boundaries of Tikal's influence, served as a "buffer zone" with Calakmul, as well as a conduit for trade with Yucatan and coastal areas (and Teotihuacan). Rio Azul was destroyed ca. A.D. 530 and was not occupied for 150 years. It recovered in ca. A.D. 650 and reached a florescence (until ca. A.D. 840). This time, it was not due to Tikal's support, but due to local circumstances, where Adams suggests a feudal system arose. "Feudal societies of Europe developed in the context of decentralization and loss of power of the Roman Empire. In the Maya lowlands, the development of a feudal type society is in the context of the disintegration of the centralized states of the Early Classic" (Adams, 1996, p. 9, original italics; see also Adams, 1997). Rio Azul was burned again in ca. A.D. 840 and the new regime could not survive stresses caused by ecological problems and drought. Webster (1997a; see also Abrams, 1995) argues against large regional polities and, instead, posits that Maya polities were a specific type of city state: " . . . a polity organized around a single, large autonomous central place that is differentiated from lesser places in its hinterland, over which it extends political, economic, and cultural dominance" (Webster, 1997a, p. 136, original italics). These polities themselves varied because of the diverse landscapes, which, according to Webster, resulted in a more segmentary system with centers serving a regal-ritual function (i.e., lacking a large nucleated population). Pyburn (1997) states that a city-state typology can be useful if used with caution; the lack of economically based power only highlights the fact that Maya political economy is still poorly understood. A. Chase and D. Chase (1996a) critique the segmentary model, claiming that its oversimplified and overgeneralized use detracts from issues of variability and process. They also mention the challenges of applying nonMaya models to the Maya. Based on their work at Caracol, Belize (Fig. 1), they argue for more centralized political systems and suggest that a "typical" Maya polity consisted of approximately 8000 km2 within which "hierarchically ordered centers" were integrated (A. Chase and D. Chase, 1996a, p. 805; see also Folan et al, 1995a; Marcus, 1973). According to Clark and others (1999), this type of political system originated in the Peten, centered at El Mirador, which they propose arose ca. 300 B.C. They argue for a four-tiered settlement system based on Middle Preclassic and Late Preclassic settlement in the surrounding area, which included Calakmul, Nakbe, Tintal, and Wakna as secondary centers. Recent evidence from Calakmul, however, suggests that it, too, was a major center at this time (Pincemin et al., 1998). Culbert (1997a) strongly supports the existence of large regional polities using archaeological and epigraphic data to assess interactions among Tikal, Caracol, and Calakmul. Weak state models are not adequate to

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Fig. 1. Sites mentioned in the text.

explain the large construction projects that would have required more than just a ruler who could inspire "piety and awe." Further, population was much too high and subsistence stress too great not to require management from the top. Finally, Culbert states that most of the major issues archaeologists require to reveal the true nature of Classic Maya power are currently unknown and/or untestable (e.g., charismatic leaders, control of rituals, degree of coercion available to ruler, taxation, and land tenure). Martin and Grube (1994) develop a model using ancient hieroglyphic inscriptions. They suggest that it is not so simple for Mayanists to define

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Classic Maya polities as "weak," or "strong," or "segmentary," or "galactic." Rather, they propose that there were two dominant and rival political spheres centered at Tikal (especially during the Early Classic) and Calakmul (especially during the Late Classic), a view first proposed by Marcus (1973, 1976). Their reading of the inscriptions also supports what Marcus earlier proposeda more "overarching" arrangement of Maya polities through marriages, alliances, visits, and warfare. Patronage and allegiance were created and maintained "through both coercive threat and kinship ties, to construct political spheres of an imperial magnitude" (Martin and Grube, 1994, p. 14). The major difference is that Martin and Grube (1995) label these polities "superstates," while Marcus (1973, 1976, 1983, 1993, 1998) calls them "states." A key characteristic of lowland Classic Maya polities is synchronic and diachronic variability. Consequently, our major concern should be to understand this variability including subsistence practices, population, social organization, and political economy, topics to which I now turn. SUBSISTENCE PRACTICES The fact that the ancient Maya achieved their many feats in a tropical environment has resulted in their being labeled as unique or mysterious. For example, the Maya had to deal with tropical diseases, parasites, and the absence of draft animals in the New World (Graham, 1999). To demystify the Maya, it is necessary to understand this setting. In this section, I describe recent advances regarding prehistoric climate, resources, agricultural techniques, and diet. Prehistoric Climate To assess ancient climatic patterns, Leyden et at. (1996) sample lake sediments to analyze geochemistry, stable isotopes, diatoms, phytoliths, and pollen from Cenote San Jose Chulchaca in northwestern Yucatan. Their results show that after about 1100 B.C., a drying trend began; pollen data indicate that there were wetter conditions from about A.D. 600 until the beginning of the Late Postclassic. Similarly, stable isotope data indicate "that greater seasonality may have contributed to these wetter conditions during the Early and Late Classic. Nevertheless, this climatic oscillation was relatively minor, for it occurred within a general drying trend that began during the Early Preclassic" (Leyden et al, 1996, p. 46; cf. Byrne, 1996; Curtis and Hodell, 1993; Curtis et al., 1996; Dunning et al., 1997; Gunn

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et al, 1995; Hodell et al, 1995; Messenger, 1990). To summarize climate patterns throughout the Maya lowlands, evidence suggests that there was a gradual drying trend beginning about 1800 B.C. Slightly wetter conditions and perhaps more seasonal conditions interrupted this drying during the Late Preclassic and lasted until the Early Postclassic. This seasonality influenced agricultural practices, especially in rainfall-dependent areas (like most of the Peten), as well as perennial and seasonal wetlands. Resources Recent evidence indicates that farming began in the Maya lowlands by at least 3000 B.C. For example, Pohl et al. (1996), using pollen data from several swamps in northern Belize, suggest that maize and manioc were present before 3000 B.C., perhaps as early as 3400 B.C. (i.e., contemporary with highland areas suggesting parallel development) (see also Fedick, 1995a; Piperno and Pearsall, 1998; Smith, 1997; Voorhies, 1996). Ancient Maya farmers used several subsistence strategies including intensive house gardening, short-fallow infield (intensive) and long-fallow outfield (extensive) farming, terraces, dams, canals, raised fields, and drainage systems (e.g., Dunning et al., 1998a; Fedick, 1994; Flannery, 1982; Killion, 1990,1992; Pohl et al, 1996; Pyburn, 1998; Turner and Harrison, 1978). In addition to climate patterns (seasonality), this variability relates to soil parent material, soil fertility, workability, root zone, drainage, slope, erosion factors, and so on (Fedick, 1995b). Combinations of these factors result in resource diversity in terms of type and scale (e.g., Alexander, 1997; Dunning et al., 1997, 1998a; Fedick, 1996a, b, 1998; Levi, 1996; Pyburn, 1996, 1998; Rice, 1996; Sanders, 1977). For example, Dunning (1996) found evidence for the use of different agricultural strategies at Sayil and other Puuc communities (e.g., infield gardens in open spaces of Sayil, outfields just beyond site margins) based on settlement and soil analysis [as well as in the Petexbatiin area (Dunning et al, 1997)]. Conyers (1995) used Ground Penetrating Radar at Ceren to search for structures and map prehistoric topography under 5-6 m of volcanic ash. He identified 26 buried structures and drainage channels, and further noted that each household group was separated by gardens and agricultural fields. However, before archaeologists interpret past lifeways based on assessing current environmental conditions, Graham (1994, pp. 331-333) cautions archaeologists when evaluating modern soils since some types might actually be the result of ancient activities, and not vice versa. The concept of environmental heterogeneity has existed for decades (e.g., Sanders 1977) and arose in response to the lowland-highland

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dichotomy view earlier held (e.g., Rathje, 1971). It is only relatively recently, however, that archaeologists have considered this diversity when attempting to explain the rise of complexity in the Maya lowlands. For example, Dunning et al. (1998a; Dunning, 1995) divide the Maya lowlands into 27 zones based on climate, drainage, and calcareous parent material. Because of the variability, it is not possible to apply a single adaptive model; more reasonable is a nonlinear model that takes into account the diversity. Similarly, Fedick (1995b, 1996a) asks the question of how agricultural production was organized in different resource zones. To address this question, he uses a land-capability classification system based on soil type, effective root zone, susceptibility to erosion, workability, drainage, and fertility in the upper Belize River area resulting in five soil classes ("I" being the best and "V" being the worst). He found the highest prehistoric residential unit (RU) density in Class II soils (208 RU per km 2 ), followed by Class I alluvial soils (98 RU per km2). He suggests that the ancient Maya practiced a "strategy of mixed land use" (Fedick, 1996a, p. 129). Before one assumes that ancient Maya society may be completely understood in material, ecological, and economic terms, however, an additional outcome of Fedick's (1996a, p. 130) analysis of soils and settlement is that ". . . the location of centers does not seem to have had as great an influence on residential settlement pattern as one might expect." While he did find noticeable settlement near minor and major centers in areas with good agricultural land, he also found high settlement densities in areas with good agricultural land, but without centers (see also Lucero, 1997a; Lucero and Fedick, 1998). In contrast, Houston (1997) notes that Piedras Negras is located in a resource-poor zone but is also equidistant between two fertile valleys. Levi (1996) and Pyburn (1996) both suggest that noneconomic factors must be considered, especially social factors, when evaluating household and community agricultural strategies (e.g., belief systems, individual household risk management choices, varying interhousehold and intercommunity relationships). The Maya, in turn, had a major impact on the environment. For example, Dunning et al. (1997) focus on agriculture and environmental change using lake core data from the Petexbatiin area. They note two major episodes of deforestation and environmental disturbanceone in the Preclassic (extensive agriculture) and one in the Late Classic (intensive agriculture) periods. There was a regrowth of high forest species in the Early Classic period (Dunning et al., 1998b). Pollen data from the lakes region in the Peten slightly differ and indicate that deforestation occurred in the Early Classic and continued through the Late Classic (Rice, 1993,1996; e.g., Paine et al., 1996).

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Agricultural Technology Local resource diversity is also reflected in the variety of agricultural techniques used throughout the lowlands. For example, Maya farmers used terraces, especially in well-drained upland areas, including the Petexbatiin area (Beach and Dunning, 1997; Dunning, 1996; Dunning et al, 1997), the Belize River area (Fedick, 1994), the "thousands of miles" of terraces around Caracol (A. Chase and D. Chase, 1996b), and the Three Rivers area (Adams, 1994). They also used different kinds of terraces, including footslope, box, and contour terraces (e.g., Dunning and Beach, 1994; Fedick, 1994). Fedick (1994) proposes that box terraces found in direct association with presumed residential structures may represent intensive home-gardening. Footslope box terraces, however, likely served as erosion check dams (e.g., Dunning et al, 1997). The Maya also used canals, dams, dikes, and wells [e.g., at Chau Hiix on Albion Island (Pyburn, 1998)]. Archaeologists have been quick to point out that little evidence suggests that large-scale techniques were consistently used at large centers (Demarest, 1997; Pohl et al., 1996; Tourtellot, 1993). Swamps and wetlands comprise more than 30% of the southern Maya lowlands (Scarborough et al., 1995). One of the most contentious debates in prehistoric subsistence studies concerns the nature of wetland agriculture, especially the extent and construction techniques of raised fields. When such fields were used, what was planted, how they were constructed, and how extensively they were used throughout the lowlands are debated issues. Pohl and others argue that raised fields in northern Belize were used most extensively in the Preclassic period until the Late Preclassic, when sea levels rose (cf. McKillop, 1996a) and raised fields were flooded or became submerged, resulting in their abandonment (Pohl and Bloom, 1996; Pohl et al., 1996; Pope et al., 1996). Furthermore, they argue that canal systems are not as prevalent in northern Belize as previously believed and that raised fields may have been composed of naturally elevated hummocks involving much less labor expenditure (some ditch/canal digging). Canals themselves, they argue, are rare (e.g., Rio Hondo). In contrast, other scholars such as Turner and Harrison (1978, 1983; e.g., Harrison, 1993, 1996) propose that raised fields were constructed in northern Belize in the Late Preclassic period, continuing through the Late Classic in response to population growth and subsistence demands. Based on the distribution of Late Classic artifacts from settlements and raised fields, they posit that the area had its highest population density during this period. Jacob (1995) addresses the claims of both camps at Cobweb Swamp in northern Belize (at Colha) to evaluate the issue of natural features versus human modification or hummocks with some canal building (digging

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ditches; Pohl and others) versus building up raised fields using upland soils (Turner, Harrison). Jacob concludes that natural and human elements may have been involved. Whatever the case, archaeologists must take these issues into account when evaluating the significance of raised fields when interpreting ancient Maya lifeways. Ground checking has shown much less evidence for wetland agriculture in the Maya lowlands than previously believed (much of it based on aerial/ remote sensing data), as Dunning (1996) demonstrates in the Puuc and Rio de la Pasion regions, as well as the Petexbatiin area (Dunning et al, 1997). In fact, the ancient Maya likely did not farm perennial wetlands. Seasonal wetlands with fertile soils (calciaquolls), however, may have been used for agriculture and silviculture. In the Peten area, the water table drops too low for dry season planting, which may also explain why there is little evidence for wetland farming (Pohl and Bloom, 1996; cf. Dunning, 1995). Finally, whether or not bajos (seasonally inundated swamps) were used for wetland agriculture is still a topic of debate. Since most bajos contain clayey soils, they were not likely candidates for raised fields (e.g., Dunning, 1996; Pohl et al, 1996). Culbert et al. (1997) note, however, that Vilma Fialko's Nakum-Yaxha intersite survey found settlement along edges of bajos and in raised areas within bajos. Based on the presence of settlement, they argue that this indirectly indicates the agricultural use/modification of bajos (e.g., Bajo La Justa). In addition, there is evidence for canal cutting in the bajo about 2 km north of Yaxha. Present-day milperos indicate that palm bajos are particularly good for milpas (comprising 35% of Bajo La Justa). They also argue that the high moisture content of these bajos would allow dry season planting. Culbert (1997b) proposes that this may have been the case in other bajos, like those near El Mirador and Calakmul. In future, archaeologists will need to avoid considering all bajos either as ideal for raised fields and/or dry season farming or as too clayey and unusable for sustainable agriculture. There are other types of wetland agricultural techniques, such as the recently discovered systems on the northeastern tip of the Yucatan Peninsula (Fedick, 1998; Fedick and Taube, 1995). This area is unique in that water is plentiful (ca. 2000 mm/year) and there are several wetland areas, some of which are perennial. Settlement is found in higher areas at wetland margins, as well as rock alignments, perhaps to retain moisture and soil. In addition, some rock alignments are perpendicular to wetlands, which may relate to two possible cultivation strategies: (1) "intensive form of water-recession cultivation. . . . Under these cultivation systems, farmers plant in the moist soils that are exposed as waters recede along the margins of rivers or wetlands during the dry season" (Fedick, 1998, p. 121); and (2) a "fertilizer factory" method. Chemical analysis of wetland "muck" shows

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it to be quite fertile with a high content of phosphorous and nitrogen. Finally, other possible uses of wetlands include edible resources such as apple snails, blue-green algae, and cattails. Increasing evidence on diverse subsistence strategies continues to come to light. For example, Kepecs and Boucher (1996) propose that rejolladas in northeastern Yucatan (the sinkholes with year-round moist soil at the bottom) may have been used to grow tree crops such as cacao. They also propose that chich (rubble) mounds were used as tree supports, as the Maya use them today. Dunning (1996; cf. Smyth et al, 1995) also proposes a similar use of rejolladas at Sayil and other Puuc communities, suggesting that they could have been used for dry season farming. In the Petexbatun region, Dunning et al. (1997) suggest that the rejolladas may have been privately owned, based on the presence of surrounding walls. A similar situation may have existed on Isla Cilvituk, Campeche, where the largest architecture is located next to rejolladas (Alexander, 1997). The use of indirect techniques to assess agricultural production practices is increasing, especially phosphate analysis. For example, Dunning (1996; see also Smyth et al., 1995) tested areas in the Puuc region (e.g., Sayil and modern milpas and residences) and notes that " . . . high phosphate areas found on residential platform surfaces revealed probable areas of maize processing, also marked by high pH or Ca values and occurring in ethnoarchaeologically documented 'likely' areas of the residential complex . . ." (Dunning, 1996, p. 60). Robin (1998) also noted high levels of phosphates in vacant spaces surrounding residential structures in the Xunantunich hinterlands of Belize, indicating planting and food preparation activities. Many other projects are incorporating phosphate testing because of its usefulness in evaluating different types of prehistoric activities [e.g., Escobedo and Houston, 1997; Houston, 1998; Houston et al. (1998) for Piedras Negras]. The use of this method can reveal the intensity of agricultural production, which can then be evaluated in light of settlement patterns and sociopolitical organization. Diet To reveal ancient Maya diet, some of the most promising evidence consists of paleobotanical and osteological data. For example, Crane (1996) found carbonized plant remains in 238 flotation samples from subplaza midden deposits at Cerros, representing at least 23 economic plant species (e.g., maize, squash, bean, nance, coyol palm, mamey, copal, and cattails). More rare in the archaeological record are seeds [e.g., Crane found one cotton seed and two chile pepper seeds; see also

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Hammond et al. (1995) for Cuello; cf. Pearsall (1995)]. Because Ceren, El Salvador, is covered by 5 m of ash as the result of the Loma Caldera eruption in ca. A.D. 600, archaeologists have been able to recover numerous casts, impressions, rinds, and seeds including cacao, gourds, maize, squash, chile, cotton seeds, beans, maguey, calabash (or morro fruit) rind, grass, palm, nance, avocado, guava fruit casts, and manioc root casts (Lentz et al, 1996). McKillop (1996b) uses archaeobotanical and ethnobotanical data to explore Maya utilization of palms for food, building materials, fuel, medicine, and fiber. White (1999) describes the multiple lines of evidence used to illuminate ancient Maya diet, including faunal and floral analysis, chemical analysis, and paleopathology. Not surprisingly, local ecology had a significant impact on diet (e.g., Gerry and Krueger, 1997; cf. Whittington and Reed, 1997; Webster, 1997b). While maize undoubtedly was the major staple, the extent of diet diversity was based on local available resources. For example, Wright (1997a) uses isotopic analysis on skeletal remains from the Pasion area, Altar de Sacrificios, Seibal, Dos Pilas, Aguateca, and Itzan to assess meat and maize consumption. Interestingly, isotopic and faunal analyses indicate not only the consumption of meat throughout the Late Classic period in some areas (e.g., Pasion area), but also the consumption of primary forest fauna, a fact that needs to be considered when discussing the issue of ecological stress and deforestation (cf. Carr, 1996). Prehistoric climate, resources, agricultural technologies, and diet indicate that ancient Maya farmers had several subsistence options given the varied landscape. This diversity affected how people settled throughout the lowlands, which in turn influenced the character of sociopolitical development. Consequently, an understanding of population distribution, density, and size is key to define and explain ancient Maya political organization. While the role of population as a prime factor in the development of complex society is still debated (e.g., Fox et al, 1996), few archaeologists would question the fact that a certain critical mass of people is required for any complex polity to function. POPULATION DISTRIBUTION, DENSITY, AND SIZE In the Maya lowlands, large centers and relatively dense hinterland settlement generally are located on or near large tracts of prime agricultural land or major bajos in the Peten (Fedick, 1996a; Folan et al, 1995a; Ford, 1986, 1996; Gonlin, 1994; Rice, 1993). However, because of the varied natural landscape and concomitant subsistence practices, many, if not most,

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ancient Maya farmers lived dispersed in homesteads across the hinterland (e.g., de Montmollin, 1995; Fedick, 1988,1995b, 1996a; Ford, 1986; Lucero, 1994, 1999a; Lucero and Fedick, 1998; Puleston, 1983; Robin, 1997, 1998). Consequently, hinterland settlement largely consists of solitary mounds and patio groups (farmsteads) (e.g., Ashmore, 1995; Gonlin, 1994; Lucero, 1994; Robin, 1997). How do settlement patterns translate into population estimates (not to mention how political leaders centralized the dispersed populace for political purposes)? As a recent edited volume devoted to prehistoric population demonstrates (Culbert and Rice, 1990), understanding ancient Maya population is key to understanding sociopolitical complexity and organization. Before discussing the debated issues in population studies, I mention the few generally accepted notions (at least two). Whatever the population size, there is little doubt that the highest population density was attained during the Late Classic period (e.g., Ford, 1986; Freter, 1994; Gonlin, 1994) and that it was the culmination of a steadily growing population from the Preclassic period onward (Culbert, 1997b; Rice, 1996). The question is, How high is high? Prehistoric population density is important because the number and distribution of people across the landscape have played a major role in how Maya archaeologists perceive ancient Maya political organization, as illustrated in the political models earlier mentioned. Centralized, regional polities require high population densities (e.g., Adams, 1994, 1996; A. Chase and D. Chase, 1996a, b; Culbert, 1997a, b; Culbert et al, 1997; Folan, 1992; Folan et al., 1995a; Scarborough et al., 1995). For example, Culbert (1998) proposes that Late Classic density reached 200 people per km2 in the Peten, which is comparable to densely settled rural areas in China today (cf. Scarborough et al., 1995). At the height of Calakmul's power in the Late Classic, Folan et al. (1995a) estimate that 50,000 people alone lived in Calakmul and its immediate environs [70 km 2 , or 714 people per km2 (see also Folan, 1992)]. A. Chase and D. Chase (1996a) estimate that at least 115,000 people lived within the 177 km2 around Caracol (650 people per km2). Were populations this high, particularly in complex polities? To address this question, it is necessary to take into account a number of factors that can affect population size and distribution, including seasonal demands of agriculture, seasonal and residential mobility, and population movement and migration. Further, archaeologists need to take into account structure function and labor costs when generating population estimates. Finally, improved chronological frameworks are also necessary, which I discuss below in another section. The 200- to 400-year ceramic periods obviously have a significant impact on how archaeologists estimate prehistoric population figures.

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Settlement Practices As noted, ancient Maya farmers used several subsistence strategies, depending on local economic and social conditions. Furthermore, current evidence suggests that large-scale agricultural techniques were not consistently used at large centers (e.g., Tikal). Evidence for agricultural technologies is not uniform across the lowlands because each strategy required specific conditions (e.g., raised fields). The lack of obvious widespread intensive agricultural techniques would, thus, seem to indicate four possible explanations: (1) local conditions did not allow the use of specific agricultural technologies; (2) local populations were able to subsist without such technologies and practiced milpa farming in combination with other strategies currently invisible in the archaeological record, either in areas with directed labor projects to grow specific items working in large corporate groups or in areas not controlled by elites where farmers worked in smaller groups; (3) both; and (4) certain types of agricultural techniques did not leave obvious traces in the archaeological record such as shortening the fallow cycle and double cropping. For example, Drennan (1988) and Killion (1990) both argue that hinterland settlement patterns may provide indirect evidence for intensive agriculture. They posit that farmsteads were dispersed because they were separated by intensively utilized fields. Increased use of phosphate testing can assist in evaluating this hypothesis. Based on what data are currently available, however, the uneven evidence for intensive agricultural techniques may suggest that extensive techniques may still have been viable, particularly in areas consisting of large tracts of prime agricultural land (e.g., the Peten). One reason is the type of agricultural soils. Mollisols, the dominant soil type in the Maya lowlands, are ". . . considered by agronomists to be among the world's most important, naturally productive soils, with yields unsurpassed by other unirrigated areas" (Fedick, 1988, p. 106). How does the use of multiple strategies relate to the population question? It has to do with how subsistence demands translated into settlement patterns, especially residential and seasonal mobility (de Montmollin, 1995, p. 189; Ford, 1996; Lucero, 1999b; Webster, 1997a; Webster and Kirker, 1995). Ethnographically, residential mobility consists of abandoning residences every 3 to 4 years to find fertile soils (e.g., Reina, 1967). Prehistorically, evaluating residential mobility is challenging due to chronological and preservation issues. It might be possible, however, to posit that some areas of the Maya lowlands may have required farmers to move to new plots to find more fertile land or to find new land in the face of growing population (e.g., Ford, 1989, 1991; Tourtellot, 1983, 1993). Other reasons for abandonment may have been the death of a family head or insect or

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other pest infestation (Santley, 1990). Seasonal mobility consists of using temporary field houses if milpas are located too far from permanent residences, especially during the agricultural season when labor demands are high. Agriculture requires different activities at different times of the year (Killion, 1990; Ford, 1991), especially during the rainy season when crops are growing [e.g., weeding, protection from pests, harvesting, storage preparation (Atran, 1993)]. For example, in a recent ethnographic account of the Maya villagers of Pich in southeastern Yucatan, Mexico, Faust (1998, pp. 56-57; see also Redfield and Villa Rojas, 1934, p. 24) discusses how each family group has rights to two or three rancherias, which are located at milpa fields. Farmers use milpa fields cyclically (planted for about 2 years and left fallow for about 15-20 years). As a consequence, each household head could build or maintain at least three field houses during his lifetime. During the agricultural season in San Jose, Lake Peten Itza, Guatemala, the size of fields and distance to fields determine whether milperos commute daily (39%; n = 31), stay at their fields during the week (49%; n = 39), or move their entire families to the field (11%; n = 9) (Reina, 1967). Seasonal and residential mobility were also common during the Colonial period (e.g., Farriss, 1984, pp. 199-223; Graham, 1994, p. 325; Tozzer 1941, p. 90). While it is not possible to extrapolate directly ethnographic and historic case studies to the prehistoric record, the question of multiple residences must be considered for the prehistoric Maya as well. For example, taking into account several field houses per household, Faust (1998, p. 56) proposes an ancient population estimate of 45 people per km2 rather than the 180 people per km2 proposed by Rice and Culbert (1990) based on mound counts, a density more in line with swidden farming (under ideal soil, drainage, and climate conditions) but not necessarily with intensive agriculture. Hinterland settlement maps show a dispersed patterning of solitary structures and patio groups, as well as clustered around centers [e.g., see survey transects by Fedick (1988), Ford (1986), and Puleston (1983)]. The latter residences, however, might not have been inhabited year-round, especially if many occupants had fields elsewhere. For example, Webster et al. (1992; Webster, 1997a; Webster and Kirker, 1995) suggest that during most of the Acbi phase (ca. A.D. 400-700) in the Copan Valley, only some of the peripheral sites were permanently occupied, and the rest may indicate field houses for seasonal occupation by Copan farmers (see also Webster, 1999). In addition to subsistence related population movement, there likely also were population movements caused by political and social factors (e.g., Adams, 1997; Graham, 1994). For example, ethnohistorically, migration was an effective strategy to escape Spanish demands (Fox and Cook, 1996). Prehistorically, Adams (1997) accounts for the dramatic increase of building

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activities in the Late Classic at Rio Azul and its hinterlands as a result of migration, likely from the Tikal area. Olivier de Montmollin (1995) suggests that some lowland Maya people spread into the greater Rosario Valley along the Grijalva River in the highlands of Chiapas by the Late Preclassic and, again, in the Late/Terminal Classic. At Colha, Mock (1994) posits that after a 50-year time span when the site was abandoned in the Terminal Classic (c. A.D. 770), other groups of Maya may have migrated to Colha from the northern Yucatan, based on the fact that the side-notched points from Colha are identical to those from Chichen Itza. Architecture Since population estimates are generated from structure counts, subsistence demands, residential mobility, and population movements could artificially inflate such estimates (Ford, 1991; Santley, 1990). Furthermore, the growing body of evidence on structure function adds another concern as to how archaeologists generate population estimates. For example, Smyth et al. (1995), based on their research at Sayil in northern Yucatan, caution about designating structure function based on unexcavated formal characteristics alone, since they do not always signify their function (e.g., residential). One of the most promising aspects of research conducted in the last few decades has been the increased excavation of nonmonumental structures (i.e., small mounds) in centers and in the hinterlands. Recent information about structure function can be used to evaluate Haviland's (1966, 1970, 1981) estimate that 16% of structures in any given residential settlement pattern represents ancillary structures such as storage, kitchen, religious, and workshop facilities. What percentage actually reflects habitation structures? Recently, Santley (1990) has proposed that as many as 40-50% of structures did not function as domiciles (sleeping/eating areas). Evidence from the Belize River Archaeological Settlement Survey (BRASS) suggests an even more complicated picture. For Phase I of the BRASS project, Ford and her crew completely mapped all cultural features in three transects (one 10 km in length, two 5 km in length) 250 m wide in a 225 km2 research area located in west-central Belize (Fedick, 1988; Fedick and Ford, 1990; Ford, 1991; Ford and Fedick, 1992). Of the 348 residential units mapped (RU; consisting of from one to four structures), every eighth RU was selected for test excavation of midden areas outside of the structures (based on pesthole testing), resulting in 52 tested RUs (12.5%). Based on location (valley, foothills, and uplands), size (small, medium, and large determined according to height, area, and number of

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structures), and artifact assemblage, Ford and her team selected representative sites for extensive excavation (Phase II). Of the seven "representative" sites excavated, only the two valley sites appear to represent full-time or permanent residences (29%, or 22% incorporating the two additional sites selected as production loci) (Lucero, 1994, pp. 197-245,1999a). The other "representative" sites, although all show some evidence for domestic activities, functioned predominantly as a biface chert tool workshop, a field house, a flake tool/unknown workshop, a ceremonial structure, and, finally, a civic/public/administrative site (see also Ford and Wernecke, 1998). The two excavated production sites also demonstrate evidence for domestic activities, as well as obsidian blade production and possible ceramic production. This proportion is similar to what archaeologists are finding at Ceren, where of the 11 structures completely exposed, only 2 were domiciles (18%); the remainder functioned as storage huts (n = 2), a workshop, kitchens (n = 2), a sweatbath, religious structures (n = 2), and a community/civic building (Sheets, 1992; Webster et al, 1997; see also Freter, 1996; Gonlin, 1994; Inomata and Stiver, 1998; Lentz et al, 1996; Marcus, 1983). In their comparison of structures at Copan and Ceren, Webster et al. (1997, p. 50) conclude that the Maya in these areas ". . . built multistructure household facilities consisting of buildings with different functions," even taking into account their different settlement patterns (Ceren was a village whereas the Copan valley had dispersed farmsteads). The diversity in structure function has obvious implications for prehistoric population estimates. Another measure used to generate population size and density is labor expenditure. Since large construction projects require much labor, large monumental buildings can translate as large numbers of people. Recently, however, Abrams (1994, pp. 106-108; see also Webster and Kirker, 1995), based on labor cost analysis at Copan in terms of number of years of construction, construction techniques, and labor costs, concludes that large numbers of people were not necessary to construct large buildings, especially since most were built in stages over long periods of time during the nonagricultural dry season (Abrams, 1994, pp. 43,109). This should not come as a surprise since one of the hallmarks of Maya buildings is their "onion-skin" stratigraphy that represents multiple construction stages rather than the much rarer single-construction phase or large scale projects (e.g., Agurcia, 1997; G. Stuart, 1997). Before leaving the subject of prehistoric population, it is important to mention an aspect of the archaeological record that might, in future, support some of the higher population estimates. This issue concerns "invisible mounds," or nonplatform mounds that in some cases are barely perceptible on the ground. Because of their "invisible" nature, the actual number of

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prehistoric "houses" awaits future discovery and excavation (e.g., Pyburn, 1997). To address this problem, Larralde (1994) recommends shovel test pitting and the evaluation of surface artifacts (which she did at Colha, Cuello, and Pulltrouser Swamp). Further, Pyburn et al. (1998), based on their work at Albion Island just west of Cuello, Belize, suggest that since most of the chich mounds contain utilitarian artifacts, they might have served a domestic function [although for Yucatan, Kepecs and Boucher (1996) suggest that these mounds were used to support tree crops, as mentioned earlier]. Finally, a greater understanding of the distribution of invisible mounds also will yield information about seasonal (field houses) and residential (brief occupation histories) mobility. Clearly, Maya archaeologists need to understand the formation processes that result in the creation of the archaeological record. This discussion of factors that can affect population estimates (seasonal and residential mobility, population movement and migration, diverse structure functions, and structure labor costs, as well as long ceramic periods, discussed below) illustrates why it is important for archaeologists to take them into consideration when estimating population distribution, size, and density. As Marcus suggests (personal communication, 1999), a more meaningful measure might consist of using contemporary structure counts to compare within and between regions. No matter what the theoretical leanings are of individual archaeologists, settlement patterns and size undoubtedly relate to how the ancient Maya were organized socially and politically.

SOCIAL DIFFERENTIATION AND INTERACTION In the previous two sections, I presented recent archaeological evidence demonstrating that the varied natural landscape affected ancient Maya subsistence and settlement practices. As implied in the discussion about subsistence practices, there are indications that elite Maya owned or controlled some of the primary resources (e.g., Gonlin, 1994; Lucero, 1999a). Leadership/hereditary position translates into having the ability to make decisions that affect the broader community, to acquire surplus goods, and to summon labor from outside the family group (Earle, 1997, p. 67; Johnson and Earle, 1987). The extent of "wealth" differences and "political clout/ economic control" requires an understanding of the nature and degree of social differentiation and interaction. To assess social differentiation, I discuss burial practices, diet and health, and labor and architecture. To assess social interaction, I discuss production, consumption, and exchange patterns.

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Social Differentiation Burial practices are a key indicator of achieved and hereditary status. Accordingly, any difference in practices through space and time provides clues about prehistoric status differences. Some of the best evidence comes from the Preclassic site of Cuello. Hammond (1995), in assessing ritual behavior at Cuello, notes that during the Middle Preclassic (1000-700 B.C.), most burials are located beneath house floors and have grave goods (mostly shell and ceramics, with occasional jade pieces). A different pattern emerged in the Late Middle Preclassic (700-400 B.C.) in that the little jade recovered is associated with males and that a few male burials are found in the patio area or ancillary structure. There were also more varied practices (e.g., decapitation). Hammond suggests that such variability signifies social differentiation. This differentiation continued in the Late Preclassic (400 B.C.-A.D. 250) when possible elite burials are found in Platform 34, the focus of community ceremonial activities [mostly male; (cf. Saul and Saul, 1997)]. In addition, mass burials occur, perhaps signifying sacrificial victims. Individuals were still buried in houses, but burials are simpler. Regarding grave goods, jades are now most often found with males, greenstone with females and juveniles, and exotics mostly with males in public/ ceremonial burials. Similarly, Krejci and Culbert (1995; cf. Culbert, 1994) assess burial and caching practices in the Pasion region, northeastern Peten, and Belize from the Middle Preclassic through the Early Classic periods. There was little change in ritual behavior for 1000 years up through the Middle Preclassic. The first elite tombs appeared in the Late Preclassic and became more elaborate in the Early Classic. Burial and caches were much more elaborate by the fourth and fifth centuries (e.g., when Curl Nose ruled at Tikal). They suggest that number of vessels and the amount and form of jade, shell, and obsidian are better indicators of "wealth" than the presence of modification (e.g., inlaid teeth and cranial shaping) or burial type [simple, cist, crypt, tomb; (e.g., Healy et al, 1998)]. At Caracol, Early Classic elites were buried in tombs, while nonelites began to use tombs in the Late Classic. Differences in tomb volume indicate "wealth" differences (D. Chase, 1997). Diane and Arlen Chase suggest that the increased number of tombs during the Late Classic signifies a decreasing gap between elites and commoners [i.e., the existence of a "middle class" (D. Chase, 1994; D. Chase and A. Chase, 1996)]. Haviland (1997), in his assessment of 208 burials from the Tikal area, addresses the issue of gender inequality; few women are depicted in the iconography, and fewer women are found in burials, and when they are, they have fewer grave goods. Additionally, Haviland notes that men more

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often had alterations (e.g., inlays and cranial deformation) and a longer life expectancy. This gender difference exists independent of status (e.g., men were buried beneath house floors more frequently than women). Some of the most interesting recent burial data come from excavated chultunes (chambers dug into the limestone bedrock). Evidence indicates that in addition to serving as dry storage or water cisterns, chultunes also were used for secondary burials (e.g., Gray, 1997; Pyburn et al, 1998), refuse, and ritual activities (the latter subject is discussed in the following section). For example, chultunes at Caracol were reused primarily for burials (Hunter-Tate, 1994). Interestingly, most of these burials are of Preclassic and Early Classic date, yet they are associated with Late Classic architecture. Clark and Bryant (1997), based on their work at the Early Classic site of Ojo de Agua, Chiapas, suggest that when chultunes were no longer useful as water cisterns, they were used for burials and refuse [the same at Chac in the Puuc region (Smyth, 1998)]. Assessing social differentiation through the study of skeletal remains is a promising realm of study, especially pertaining to differences in diet and health (Whittington and Reed, 1997; e.g., Webster, 1997b). Analytical techniques include chemical analysis and paleopathology (e.g., White, 1999), as well as faunal studies (e.g., Pohl, 1994). Not surprisingly, some of the differences relate to local resource variability. Diet also differed based on gender and socioeconomic status (e.g., White, 1999). Elites had greater access to diverse foods, as well as more regular access to foods (White, 1997). In her isotopic analysis of skeletal remains from Petexbatiin sites Altar de Sacrificios, Seibal, Dos Pilas, Tamarindito, Aguateca, and Itzan, Wright (1997a, b) found that socioeconomic status accounted for differences in maize and meat consumption in the Late Classic but that gender alone accounted for differences in the Terminal Classic. Health differences also related to wealth and local resource variability (Wright, 1997b). Actually, Late and Terminal Classic health is similar to other agrarian societies (Wright and White, 1996). Danforth (1997, p. 137) does note that "residents at larger sites had incurred more health disruptions during childhood compared to their more rural counterparts" (cf. D. Chase, 1997; Danforth, 1994; Storey, 1997). Regarding labor and architecture, Webster et al. (1998) provide a useful summary of recent research on Maya elites (e.g., material evidence for elites). Based on their analysis of Group 8N-11 in the Copan core (a subroyal residential compound), they argue that architecture and sculpture are better indicators of wealth differences than burials or artifacts. Other research shows that labor is an effective measure of social differentiation (e.g., Abrams, 1994, 1995; Lucero, 1999a; Palka, 1997). In addition, increasingly archaeologists are assessing architecture not just as structures representing

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specific functions, but as lived space (Ashmore, 1992; J. G. Fox, 1996; e.g., Sanchez, 1997), symbolic metaphors (Houston, 1996), and as part of the sacred landscape (D. Stuart, 1997). As such, architectural differences could be useful indicators of social differentiation and interaction (e.g., Schele and Mathews, 1998). In sum, archaeologists can analyze architecture to ascertain function and, in addition, can view architecture as reflecting culture and representing labor and social control (de Montmollin, 1995, p. 63; e.g., Morrison, 1996; Webster and Kirker, 1995). Burial practices, diet, health, and architecture type and labor cost clearly demonstrate socioeconomic differences. As to the scale and degree of this differentiation, it, too, varied depending on local conditions. In areas such as Tikal where there are large tracts of prime agricultural land and the means to control a critical resource (water), wealth differences were more apparent. In regions without the means to control a critical resource, such as in areas with dispersed resources and plentiful water, or with concentrated tracts of agricultural soils but with plenty of water (e.g., Barton Ramie), there was much less differentiation. Social Interaction Despite the varied landscape, there are common features among the Maya, especially having to do with how Maya elites distinguished themselves from commoners [e.g., architecture, clothing, jewelry, exotics, etc. (A. Chase and D. Chase, 1992, 1995; Demarest, 1996; Pyburn, 1997; Webster, 1997a)]. Assessing elite interaction alone, however, can sometimes obfuscate the actual variability that existed. To assess other types of interaction, then, it is important to look elsewhere. Production, consumption, and exchange patterns can reveal diverse economic transactions that bear on social interactions. To begin, we can consider recent research on the origins of production technologies and how their spread promoted intercommunity interaction. For example, Hester and his colleagues are beginning to close the gap between Preceramic and ceramic villages in the lowlands based on their work in the vicinity of Colha (e.g., Hester, 1995; Hester et al, 1996; Iceland and Hester, 1996). Chipped stone data, wetland pollen, and radiocarbon dates indicate Preceramic quarrying and production activities, land clearing, and maize and manioc production at ca. 3000 B.C. (cf. Pohl et al., 1996). Currently there is no evidence to suggest discontinuity from Preceramic to ceramic periods. While we do not have language data for 3000 B.C. (Marcus, personal communication, 1999), it is assumed that the same peoples (proto-Maya and Maya) inhabited Belize. Interaction among northern Belize communities may have started quite early; unfortunately,

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Preceramic studies are rare (see Zeitlin, 1984). Studies in other Mesoamerican areas may elucidate the scale and nature of early interaction. Clark and Gosser (1995) present correlations between radiocarbon dates and ceramic sequences in highland Tehuacan and the Pacific coast of Chiapas (Soconusco area), which seem to indicate that both regions adopted the use of ceramics contemporaneously (ca. 1900-1400 B.C.). This would mean that ceramic technology did not necessarily spread from the highlands of Mexico to the Maya area. Further, Kosakowsky and Pring (1998) suggest that the origins of the earliest known lowland Maya ceramic complex, the Swasey complex at Cuello (ca. 1000-900 B.C.), remain a mystery. They base this claim on the fact that forms are not similar to early highland wares. Perhaps their origins lie in the Soconusco area? Whatever the case may have been, what is clear is that widespread interaction/communication was taking place quite early in Maya prehistory. Even more distant interaction is implied later in Maya prehistory. For example, Garber (personal communication, 1998) recovered a ceramic roller stamp at Blackman Eddy, central Belize, in a deposit dating to ca. 750-650 B.C. The iconography is non-Maya and resembles that found in lower Central America. Up through the Classic period, long-distance interaction intensified and became more common, as evident in the distribution of certain goods, especially ceramics and chipped stone (and keeping in mind the elite interaction sphere involving perishables). A frustrating aspect of assessing ceramic production, more so than its origins, is that while millions of ancient ceramic vessels and sherds have been recovered in the Maya lowlands, direct evidence of their production is rare (e.g., Ciudad R., 1995) because of open-air firing techniques and the tempers used [mostly limestone and volcanic ash (Ford and Lucero, 1998; see also Reents-Budet, 1994, p. 216)]. As a result, archaeologists have reverted to using indirect methods to explore prehistoric ceramic production including assessing standardization [e.g., using coefficient of variation of wall thickness and rim diameter (e.g., Foias and Bishop, 1997; Lucero, 1999a)], INAA analysis (summarized by Bishop, 1994), stylistic analysis (e.g., Reents-Budet, 1994), the presence of high densities of specific ceramic forms, wasters, and possible burnishing tools (e.g., Freter, 1996; cf. Deal, 1998, pp. 23-77), and the distribution of specific tempers (e.g., volcanic ash from highland Guatemala; Ford and Rose, 1995). No matter the method, however, current evidence indicates the local production and consumption of pottery, especially of utilitarian forms (e.g., Foias and Bishop, 1997; Freter, 1996; Lucero, 1994; Potter and King, 1995). There is little evidence at present to suggest that markets provided a forum for exchange [although Jones (1996) suggests that there was likely a market-

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place in Tikal's epicenter]. For the production of more specialized vessels, particularly Late Classic polychrome pottery (e.g., codex style vases), indirect evidence implies attached specialization based on distribution, quality, and signed pieces. Direct evidence, however, has not yet been recovered (Ball, 1993a; Reents-Budet, 1994). The same pattern of local production and consumption of utilitarian goods and the regional or long-distance exchange of specialized goods holds true for chipped stone as well. For example, Hester and Shafer (1994; see also Hester, 1994; Hester et al, 1994; Santone, 1997; Tobey et al., 1994) estimate primary and peripheral consumer areas for Colha chert. The primary consumers of Colha chert (mostly utilitarian) lived within 60 km of Colha; secondary consumers of Colha chert (mostly eccentrics and stemmed macroblades) lived farther away in Mexico (Chiapas) and Guatemala (e.g., Tikal, El Mirador). While the forms varied through time (Late Preclassic through Late Classic), smaller blades and points had a wider distribution than larger utilitarian forms. Elites did not appear to control the production and distribution of chert products. Another major lithic type found in the lowlands is obsidian, an imported material from highland areas. Ford et al. (1997), in an analysis of obsidian from the Tikal-Yaxha intersite area (residential middens), support earlier studies of procurement patterns in the Maya lowlands. In the Preclassic before ca. A.D. 250, the principal source of obsidian came from the San Martin Jilotepeque-Rio Pixcaya area (see Braswell and Glascock, 1998); in the Classic, the dominant source was El Chayal (with some Pachuca obsidian appearing in the Early Classic). In the Terminal Classic, El Chayal obsidian was less common. The presence of Pachuca or green obsidian from central Mexico, based on its distribution and context, also serves as an indicator of elite exchange/interaction, especially during the Early Classic (Spence, 1996). There are limited amounts in the Maya lowlands of obsidian from the Ucareo-Zinapecuaro area in Michoacan, central Mexico [e.g., Early Classic Tikal, Early/Middle Classic at El Mirador, Classic/Early Postclassic at Wild Cane Cay, Late Classic/Terminal Classic at Ambergris Cay, and Late Classic at Edzna, Lubaantun, and a few other sites; (Healan, 1997)]. Evidence for obsidian production loci is rare in the Maya lowlands, but the few known loci suggest household-attached specialists [e.g., Ceren (Lentz et al., 1996; Sheets, 1992, p. 56), west-central Belize (Olson, 1994; Olson and Lucero, 1995; cf. Clark, 1997), Ojo de Agua, Chiapas]. For the most part, archaeologists use indirect evidence to assess obsidian production and exchange patterns (e.g., Aoyama, 1994; Awe and Healy, 1994; Clark and Bryant, 1997; Inomata and Aoyama, 1996; cf. Rovner and Lowenstein, 1997). In addition, Moholy-Nagy (1997; cf. Clark and Bryant, 1997), in her

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study of the organization of Classic period craft production at Tikal, suggests that the numerous special or ritual deposits consisting of large numbers of chert and obsidian pieces actually could represent secondary debitage disposal and that archaeologists should not discount these "ritual offerings" in elucidating production patterns. Other evidence for production activities includes salt production in southern Belize (McKillop, 1995), shell production at Copan (Aoyama, 1995), possible slate production at Pacbitun ca. 15 km east of Xunantunich (Healy et al, 1995), and lime-plaster production at Copan (Abrams and Freter, 1996). While the sourcing of non-Motagua Valley jade is still problematic (Hauff, 1993), recent research in the Maya Mountains of Belize shows promising results, if not for finding another source of jade, at least for locating other mineral sources such as pyrite, hematite, granite (see also Pritchard-Parker, 1995), slate, nonjade greenstone, high quality clays, quartz, and mica, as well as a variety of flora and fauna (Dunham, 1996). Recent data on maritime trade highlight two features: (1) maritime trade was not just for the long-distance movement of elite goods; and (2) such trade was not just a Postclassic phenomenon. For example, Late and Terminal Classic evidence from Stingray Lagoon, located on the coast west of Wild Cane Cay, indicates not only the local production and exchange (inland) of subsistence goods and the long-distance exchange of elite/exotic goods, but also the coastal exchange of inland goods for seafood (McKillop, 1995). On Ambergris Cay, evidence suggests extensive Late and Terminal Classic exchange networks based on the presence of basalt, obsidian, and jade from highland Guatemala, green obsidian from central Mexico, and cotton, textiles, and henequen from the Yucatan (Guderjan, 1993; Guderjan and Garber, 1995; see also Andrews and Corletta, 1990). The southern Belize port at Wild Cane Cay also may have served as a conduit to trade salt, perhaps throughout the southern Maya lowlands. Consequently, the large-scale importation of salt from the Yucatan was unlikely (McKillop, 1996a). Trade between the southern lowlands and northern Yucatan became noticeable only in the Postclassic (see also Graham, 1994). As Marcus stated over a decade ago (1983), local exchange of staples and other perishables was quite significant and has too long been ignored because of our focus on the long-distance exchange of elite goods. There can be little doubt that many types of interaction existed throughout the Maya area. It is also clear that the degree of social differentiation related to local conditions. Long-distance interaction was an elite activity, especially for the exchange of prestige or exotic goods, whereas local economic and social interaction involved all sectors of society and the exchange of food and other goods.

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CLASSIC MAYA POLITICAL ECONOMY Sources of political power (e.g., ideology, economy, and the military) and how they articulate in the rise of polities vary in different societies resulting in a variety of trajectories and histories. The general processes, however, of increasing complexity are universal (Earle, 1997; Mann, 1986). Furthermore, the maintenance of any political system requires the input of goods and labor by participating members of society (the political economy). The kinds of goods and amount of labor contributed depend on local economic, social, and political conditions. Several models on the ancient Maya explore the relationship of the varied landscape, dispersed population, and the challenges emerging elites faced in acquiring goods, land, and access to labor. Maya leaders used centripetal strategies, such as ceremonies and other public events, to bring people together (e.g., Demarest, 1996; Freidel, 1981). For example, Lucero (1999b) and Scarborough (1998) have recently proposed models of the rise of political power that take into account the control of a critical resource, artificial reservoirs located next to monumental architecture, and the control of rituals having to do with water itself (cf. Ford 1996). Water management and ritual were key, especially in areas without lakes and rivers during the annual 4-month drought. For example, Scarborough (1993) proposes that a major reason El Mirador was abandoned in the Late Preclassic might have been due to a failure in the water management system, perhaps as a result of the build-up of silt in the reservoirs. The resulting power vacuum allowed other polities to grow, especially Calakmul and Tikal (Folan et al, 1995a). The largest Classic polities developed in areas with the landscape hydraulically engineered to provision the population with water, including polities centered at Tikal, Calakmul, and Caracol (Dunning et al, 1998c; Folan, 1992; Folan et al., 1995a; Kunen, 1996; Scarborough, 1996). For example, the Maya built hundreds of reservoirs in and around Caracol (A. Chase and D. Chase, 1996b). Such models can also account for the typically smaller riverine centers (e.g., Piedras Negras, Yaxchilan, Altar de Sacrificios, Palenque), where water management was less of an issue (Lucero, 1999b). If we are going to understand fully the nature, development, and maintenance of Classic Maya polities, we must understand how the economy and ideology articulated within various political systems. I discuss below some key topics that can help to illuminate this articulation: community organization, ritual and politics, the Classic Maya collapse, and warfare. Community Organization The apparent economic and social self-sufficiency at the community level (e.g., Freter, 1994; Hayden, 1994; Lucero, 1997b, c, 1999a) has to be

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considered in attempting to explain the development of complex polities. Archaeologists need to explain why members of independent communities contributed to the political economy of nonlocal or local (e.g., center) elites. On a day-to-day basis, ancient Maya farmers interacted locally to pool labor in the field (Levi, 1996), to build each other's houses, and to prepare for communal events such as feasts, ceremonies, and weddings (Abrams, 1994, pp. 97-99). However, Pyburn et al. (1998; Pyburn, 1997) point out that more local analysis is needed to address fully the issue of community self-sufficiency, especially since we may be missing "invisible" architectural data (nonelevated platforms). Archaeologists can address this concern through a greater focus on minor centers or middle level settlements, as Marcus suggested (1983). "If we are to press forward with our understanding of Maya politics, we need to know more about the functions of these lesser centers, their relationships to each other, and their relationships to the major centers" (Willey, 1997, p. 8; see also lannone, 1998). This focus has already begun, particularly in Belize, including work at Cahal Pech (Awe, 1992; Ball, 1993b) and its nearby smaller centers, X-ual-canil (Cayo Y) and Zubin (lannone, 1996,1997,1998; lannone and Conlon, 1995), Baking Pot west on the river from Blackman Eddy (Conlon and Awe, 1997), Blackman Eddy (Garber and Classman, 1996; Garber et al., 1993, 1997), Blue Creek (Guderjan, 1996; Guderjan et al., 1996), the La Milpa area (Tourtellot et al, 1993, 1996; Valdez, 1999), and Saturday Creek (Lucero, 1999c), to mention a few.
Ritual and Politics

What factors resulted in the majority of the Maya contributing their labor and goods outside their communities, especially to center elites? Maya archaeologists have always realized the importance of ritual in the daily lives of the Maya, today and in the past. Archaeologists also know that ritual plays a major role in political systems (e.g., D. Chase and A. Chase 1998). Recent research provides a much more dynamic understanding of the role of ritual, together with economic factors, in the rise of Maya political power (e.g., Demarest, 1992, 1996; Dunning, 1995; Dunning et al., 1998c; Kocyba, 1994; Lucero 1999b). Evidence indicates that early Maya leaders replicated and expanded traditional rituals to suit a political agenda (e.g., Lucero, 1999b; McAnany, 1995; Scarborough, 1998; Walker and Lucero, 1999), particularly ancestor veneration, termination, dedication, and renewal rites. Only once rulers had power did they institute new practices, such as incorporating stelae as center pieces in royal performances signifying their tie to royal ancestors (Stuart, 1996; e.g., Clancy, 1999; Culbert, 1994),

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as well as using emblem glyphs and place names (Stuart and Houston, 1994). While much of our evidence comes from the archaeological record, much of it also conies from what we know about current Maya ritual practices. The major criticism of using ethnographic accounts, however, concerns the effects of change (Spanish conquest, disease, depopulation, etc.). Responding to this criticism, Fash (1997) calls for a greater acceptance of the continuity of a "Maya ethos," especially because increasing evidence demonstrates continuity [e.g., Popol Vuh; also in the decipherment of hieroglyphs; (Bonor V., 1994)]. Identifying ritual appropriation through time and the emergence of full-time leaders (see Marcus, 1992) requires detailed and accurate chronologies, and recent advances in this field are making this more of a reality. For example, several excavated tombs at Caracol have yielded ceramic types associated with calendrical dates painted on walls (A. Chase, 1994). Similarly, Houston et al. (1998, p. 49) note "rough correlations that seem to exist between rulers and ceramic phases. . . . " Another chronological issue concerns obsidian hydration dating, a topic that recently has been beset with controversy due to archaeologists questioning hydration dates (discussed by Webster et al., 1993; see Braswell, 1992). Freter (1993; Webster et al., 1993) responds to the criticisms raised regarding factors affecting hydration rates (e.g., altitude, deposit depth, soil temperature or effective hydration temperature, soil relative humidity, and soil pH) and presents a field protocol that should be implemented when collecting obsidian for dating purposes. Archaeologists are also beginning to recommend the use of better definitions of chronological terms. For example, Brady et al. (1998) note that there are at least three uses for the term Protoclassicas a ceramic horizon, as a transition between Preclassic and Classic periods, and as the time span between ca. 50 B.C.-A.D. 250. They argue that it should be used to signify a ceramic horizon. Better chronological frameworks allow us to assess better the relationship between ritual and the development of full-time leadership. For example, since ancestor worship pervaded Maya life, it also provided a perfect forum for emerging leaders to integrate dispersed farmers, as evidenced in the increasing scale and magnitude of ancestral shrines from the Late Preclassic through the Classic periods [from the house to the temple (McAnany, 1995; e.g., D. Chase and A. Chase 1998; Freter, 1994; Guderjan, 1996; Houston, 1997; Walker and Lucero, 1999)]. Dedication, termination, and renewal ceremonies also increased in scale and grandeur (e.g., Freidel, 1998; Hammond, 1995; Mock, 1998a). When these rituals became too large for residences, other, more public and larger arenas were needed (e.g., Lesure, 1997), not only to promote specific interests, but also to compete with other emerging leaders. For example, in her study of Classic Xunantun-

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ich public architecture, LeCount (1996) discusses two types of feasting activities, those between rival elites [factionalism (e.g., Aoyama, 1995)] and those to promote community consolidation (e.g., J. G. Fox, 1996). Ballcourts also provided political forums. For example, J. G. Fox (1996) demonstrates how evidence from excavated Late Preclassic ballcourts in the Cuyumapa drainage in northwestern Honduras indicates, in addition to ballgames, feasting activities, likely as a means for emerging leaders to display publicly their growing prestige and power (see also de Montmollin, 1995, 1997). The significance of ritual in the development of Maya political power is obvious, especially in conjunction with economic factors. Thus, it is vital that archaeologists assess how Maya rites changed through time, especially in relation to the development of political leaders and, hence, the political economy. By doing so, it will bring us closer in explaining how Maya leaders were able to control people, or at least their goods and labor. The expansion of Maya archaeology into previously unemphasized areas is slowly closing this gap, particularly with the focus on excavating chultunes and exploring caves and underwater sites, all sacred places to the Maya and, thus, loci for ritual activities. The emphasis on chultunes for understanding Maya ritual is important because present evidence indicates that some of the earliest ceremonial activities may have taken place in these underground chambers. For example, Bladen (ca. 900-650 B.C.) ceramic forms (small bowls and cups) from a chultun at Cuello are not present elsewhere at the site, leading Kosakowsky and Pring (1998) to suggest that this might indicate early evidence for ceremonial activities (see also Hammond et al., 1995). Another sacred opening in the earth is caves. Given that about 70% of the Maya area consists of karstic terrain, it is not surprising that caves are not only a common feature of the landscape, but also a feature of the sacred landscape (Bassie-Sweet, 1996; Stone, 1995, 1997). Both Brady (1995) and McNatt (1996) note that the earliest and longest-lasting Maya ritual practices took place in caves. For example, the majority of ceramics from Gordon's Cave 3 near Copan are from the Middle Preclassic [followed in number by Early Classic and Late Classic ceramics (Brady, 1995)]. Stone (1997) presents evidence of caves being used by the Proto-Maya in ca. 2400 B.C. in the Yucatan, up through the Late Postclassic. "[CJaves were a conduit into the bowels of the earth, a dangerous but supernaturally charged realm, often referred to as the 'underworld' in current literature or by the Quiche term, Xibalba. Herein dwelt the ancestors, rain gods, various 'owners' of the earth, culture heroes, nefarious death demons, animal and wind spirits. The Maya made pilgrimages to caves to propitiate these beings . . ." (Stone, 1997, p. 202; see also Brady and Scott, 1997). Elites made such pilgrimages [e.g., to Naj Tunich (cf. Brady, 1997)], even though they had their own artificial caves (temple doorways). The numerous cave burials

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also signify their importance as ancestral shrines (e.g., Awe, 1998; Moyes and Awe, 1998), as well as for rain-making ceremonies (e.g., Graham, 1997). Cave features, such as speleothems, were also considered sacred and cached in houses (e.g., Brady et al., 1997a). Caves also could influence the location of temples. For example, the Maya built the main temple at Dos Pilas, El Duende, directly over an extensive cave system (Brady, 1997, Brady et al, 1997b). Interestingly, natural caves near Caracol apparently lack any cultural remains (Feld, 1994), evidently a rare occurrence. Another arena for ritual activities consists of bodies of water, excellently summarized by Andrews and Corletta (1995). Openings in the earth were and are considered by the Maya as portals to the underworld (BassieSweet, 1996; Thompson, 1970). The ancient Maya often made offerings to these portals. Explorations of this underwater world have mostly focused in lakes and cenotes (sinkholes exposing the water table). We know little, however, about natural pools (fed by underwater rivers) typically found at the base of cliffs (themselves riddled with caves). Recently, I directed a diving expedition at Cara Blanca, ca. 15 km northwest of Saturday Creek, central Belize, an area with numerous pools (over 20) at the base of a steep cliff (80-100 m). Although the one pool (100 X 60 m) explored was too deep for regular scuba diving (ca. 40 m), it is likely that the Maya conducted ceremonies because of the apparent specialized structures located on its edges, the only settlement in the area (Lucero, 1999c), To assess how ritual and politics translate into political change, Maya archaeologists focus on the transition from the Late Preclassic to Early Classic periods (e.g., founding of royal dynasties, dynastic accounts, appearance of large temples) (Grube, 1995; see Pincemin et al., 1998). During the Early Classic, there was an increase in warfare and sacrifice [i.e., increasing competition between emerging leaders (Marcus, 1995)]. Evidence from throughout the lowlands indicates less hinterland occupation during the Early Classic compared with Middle Preclassic and Late Classic occupation. Were hinterland inhabitants moving to centers? For example, at Rio Azul, Adams (1994) notes that hinterlands were abandoned during the Early Classic, probably because of ecological problems and political factors. The political factors resulted in the need to nucleate at centers [whether forcibly or voluntarily (Tourtellot et al., 1996)]. Tourtellot et al. (1996) note that Early Classic nucleation also occurred at Cerros, Uaxactiin, Colha, Tikal (see Laporte and Fialko, 1995), and Seibal (where Early Classic materials are found only in "great plazas"). A. Chase and D. Chase (1995) also argue for increasing centralization in the transition from the Late Preclassic to the Early Classic. They base this claim on the appearance and distribution of the "E Group Assemblage," which might signify increasing interaction and the formalization of social hierarchy, culminating in Late

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Classic Maya regional polities. If resources are dispersed, however, what factors resulted in nucleation? Does Early Classic hinterland occupation need to be identified using factors other than ceramic chronologies? Might elites have used ritual events to attract hinterland farmers for part of the year, that is, during the nonagricultural dry season when they participated in large-scale ceremonies and feasts, not to mention constructing monumental architecture? Whatever the answers might be, it is clear that plentiful critical resources combined with ritual provided the basis for the development and maintenance of Classic Maya power. The Maya Collapse There have been many explanations for the Maya collapse (ca. A.D. 850-1000). When viewed in light of the above discussion of variability, it is apparent that a single model cannot explain what happened in the Terminal Classic in the Maya lowlands (cf. Pyburn, 1996,1998). Archaeologists have proposed models that incorporate internal and/or external and monocausal or multicausal factors. These include climate change (Adams, 1994, 1996; Curtis et al., 1996; Dahlin, 1983; Folan et al., 1983,1995a; Gunn et al., 1995; Hodell et al., 1995; Lowe, 1985; Lucero, 1997d), unstable seasonal patterns (Byrne, 1996; Rice, 1996), commercial agriculture (Atran, 1993), environmental and ecological causes combined with increasing population (Abrams and Rue, 1988; Adams, 1994,1996; Culbert, 1977; Freter, 1994; Hosier et al., 1977; Paine and Freter, 1996; Sabloff and Willey, 1967; Tourtellot et al., 1996; Wingard, 1996), foreign intrusion (Cowgill, 1964), internal warfare (Demarest, 1997), increasing militarism (Cowgill, 1979) and/or competition (Bove, 1981), peasant revolt (Thompson, 1966,1970; Hamblin and Pitcher, 1980), managerial/adaptation failure (Pyburn, 1996; Willey and Shimkin, 1973), trade failure (Rathje, 1973; Webb, 1973), subsistence failure (Culbert, 1977, 1988; Lowe, 1985; Turner, 1974), yellow fever (Wilkinson, 1995; cf. Bianchine and Russo, 1995), and diminishing subsistence returns (Tainter, 1988). Some Maya archaeologists argue that a collapse did not actually occur (see Marcus, 1995). Rather, population shifted north as evidenced in the florescence of centers such as Chichen Itza and the Island of Cozumel. Sabloff (1992) labels this the "northern view." In a similar vein, using ethnohistoric accounts of Postclassic and Colonial Maya political institutions, Marcus (1993,1998) proposes that there were neither "golden ages" nor "collapses" in Maya prehistory but, rather, a series of cyclic "peaks" and "troughs" (cf. Blanton et al., 1996). There are also centers that experienced a florescence when other centers were collapsing, including Seibal [due to the loss of power at Dos Pilas (Demarest, 1997; see Sabloff and Willey,

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1967)] and Xunantunich [perhaps due to the loss of power at Naranjo (Ashmore, 1995; see also Connell, 1997; Leventhal, 1994, 1995; Leventhal and Ashmore, 1997)]. Some of the best evidence for collapse comes from the Vanderbilt Petexbatiin Regional Archaeological project, which clearly demonstrates that warfare played a major role in the region's collapse (see also Foias, 1997). The goals of the Petexbatiin project were to assess collapse models, including climate change (Dunning et al., 1997), ecological change (Dunning et al., 1997; Wright, 1997b), foreign invasion (Foias and Bishop, 1997), and economic conditions (Foias and Bishop, 1997). Evidence does not support these other models but does support the predominant role warfare played. Demarest et al. (1997) describe defensive systems, spear point caches, decapitated individuals, palisades (stone foundations), and the defensible locations of centers (e.g., hilltops, near gorges, escarpments). In brief, between about A.D. 760 and A.D. 830, a period of endemic warfare ensued when rulers from other centers attempted to wrest power from Dos Pilas [Demarest, 1997; Demarest et al., 1997); e.g., Tamarindito (Valdes, 1997)], resulting in the destruction of several centers [e.g., Aguateca (Inomata, 1997; Inomata and Stiver, 1998)]. While warfare wreaked havoc in the Petexbatiin area, Seibal experienced a florescence. Between about A.D. 830 and A.D. 1800, several centers in this region were abandoned [e.g., Arroyo de Piedra (Escobedo, 1997)], and only a remnant population on the island fortress site of Punta de Chimino persisted (abandoned ca. A.D. 950). While direct evidence for warfare exists in the Petexbatiin region, this situation appears to be unique. Improved chronological data and a better understanding of northern lowland regional dynamics in the Terminal and Postclassic periods are also elucidating the Maya collapse. For example, Bey et al. (1997, 1998), based on their work at Ek Balam north of Chichen Itza and Coba, assess architectural and ceramic evidence to address the transition from Classic to Postclassic. While C-shaped structures are typically defined as Postclassic in the northern lowlands, ceramics from these structures indicate Terminal Classic construction. If this new evidence is accepted, it would modify the dates of Terminal Classic in the northern lowlands to ca. A.D. 925-1100. Bey et al. (1997, p. 249) conclude that the term Terminal Classic "is a term best used to define the final postmonumental Classic occupation of Maya centers, rather than as a single pan-lowland time period" (cf. Kepecs, 1998). Consequently, "collapse" should not be seen as a complete "abandonment" but, rather, as a transitional period to Postclassic organization. C-shaped structures in the Terminal Classic replaced monumental architecture of the Late Classic, but likely still served similar purposes at a smaller scale in face of some depopulation and reorganization as a result of the "collapse."

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Similar chronological results come from the Chichen Itza area (e.g., Anderson, 1998) and elsewhere. For example, Dunning and Kowalski (1994) argue that Uxmal arose as the capital of a Terminal Classic regional polity in the eastern Puuc area between ca. A.D. 850 and A.D. 950, possibly at the same time as Chichen Itza and Coba. Suhler et al. (1998), based on their work at Yaxuna, propose that there may have been an alliance between Coba and the Puuc area in opposition to Chichen Itza during the Terminal Classic period (cf. Andrews and Robles, 1985). Eventually, Yaxuna was conquered by Chichen Itza later in the Terminal Classic. Because of its incorporation into the Chichen Itza polity, it too was abandoned in the Postclassic, perhaps by the same forces that affected Chichen Itza. Carmean and Sabloff (1996; cf. Carmean, 1998) propose that the usually decentralized Puuc area, at least at Sayil, may have temporally joined "forces" in an attempt to fend off the threat posed by Chichen Itza. Smyth (1998; Smyth et al., 1998) explores Puuc origins through his study at Chac, a Maya center occupied since the Early Classic period; Smyth also asks what role the Puuc Maya could have played in the southern lowland collapse, especially in view of the indicated Mexican/foreign contacts ca. A.D. 500-700. This discussion of northern lowland chronological and regional issues highlights how recent advances in these areas need be evaluated when attempting to grasp Classic Maya politics. Another topic that will further elucidate political systems consists of recent archaeological evidence concerning other postcollapse events. Each area has its own specific story to tell; however, there are some general issues that need mentioning. Even though evidence may, at first glance, indicate massive population loss during and after the collapse, increasing evidence from hinterland studies suggests alternative explanations. Some postcollapse communities may have reverted to using nonplatform houses or "invisible" mounds (cf. Rice, 1996). Ford (1986, Table 5.2) recorded a notable presence of Terminal Classic occupation in the intercenter area between Tikal and Yaxha (85% of tested sites). Also, the Maya inhabited the central Peten lakes region from the Postclassic until the conquest (Rice, 1996), as well as Lamanai in northern Belize (Pendergast, 1981,1985). In the Belize River area, occupation continued, where the Maya abandoned upland areas without centers for areas near the river (Fedick, 1996a). On Wild Cane Cay and other cayes, McKillop (1996a) notes a population increase, in contrast to the depopulation witnessed in southern inland Belize sites such as Uxbenka, Lubaantun, Nim li Punit, and Pusilha. Another diagnostic often used to argue for massive abandonment of lowland areas after the collapse is the dramatic decrease in ceramics recovered from this period. However, it is possible that the Maya began using more decorated gourds rather than ceramics (Hayden 1994), as recorded among Postclassic and modern Maya

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groups (Bunzel 1952, p. 42; Hayden and Cannon, 1984, p. 172; Redfield and Villa Rojas, 1934, pp. 75,128; Tozzer, 1907, p. 122, 1941, p. 90; Vogt, 1970, p. 54). They also could have started to use plainwares, which would be more difficult to distinguish from earlier, similar wares. Fewer monumental building projects and the increased use of ceramic plainwares and/or perishable goods would leave less telling evidence in the archaeological record and might be misinterpreted as massive population loss rather than population dispersal and migration. These issues await further study with the continuing recent trend in Maya archaeology of focusing research in hinterland areas. It is too simplistic, however, to say that postcollapse Maya reverted to Preclassic community organization; too much history had passed (Alexander, 1998). What might have happened instead is a reorganization of population such as migration and center abandonment rather than complete population loss (Rice, 1988; cf. Alexander, 1999; Alexander and Canche, 1999; Masson, 1997). In areas with plentiful resources, the disruption that occurred in land-locked areas (e.g., Tikal) did not automatically result in dramatic change, just restructuring. A similar scenario explains community based or localized political organization in peripheral areas such as the Belize River region, where the means to support the scale of polities found in the core areas did not exist in the first place (Lucero and Kinkella, 1999). Masson (1997), based on her work at Laguna de On near Colha in northern Belize, provides an example of this postcollapse restructuring and demonstrates that Postclassic villages (i.e., communities) became the focal point for social, political and economic organization rather than regional centers that were the focal point in the Classic period.
Warfare

Warfare relates to political organization in that the more complex a system is, the larger the scale and scope of warfare. Groups conduct warfare to gain territory and access to labor (economic gain) or to capture sacrificial victims to gain prestige. In the Maya lowlands, Culbert (1997a) argues that, as a result of high population and subsistence stress, the Maya conducted warfare for territorial and economic gain (cf. Martin and Grube, 1994,1995; Webster, 1993,1998). In general, however, evidence indicates that the major type of warfare conducted was small-scale and involved largely elites. The goal was to capture high-status individuals for sacrifice, another centripetal ritual event. Other than in the Petexbatiin region, most evidence for warfare elsewhere in the lowlands is indirect, which would seem to indicate a lesser role for warfare than some archaeologists have proposed (e.g., Webster,

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1993,1998). For example, Suhler and Freidel (1998) claim to have uncovered the tomb of a "slaughtered royal family" at Yaxuna in northern Yucatan based on the disarray of skeletal remains. Violence is also posited at Terminal Classic Colha, where the Skull Pit, a pit with 30 human skulls, may indicate the presence of captives and, thus, warfare (Hester, 1995; Massey and Steele, 1997; Mock, 1998b). Another indirect indicator is the location of centers in naturally defensible locations including swamps, gorges, and ridges. The presence of linear features, perhaps serving as foundations for palisades, ditches, and moats, has also been proposed to indicate warfare (e.g., Webster, 1993). Hester and Shafer (1994) propose that in the Terminal Classic, the "mass production" of stemmed blade points may have resulted from the increasing need for weapons. A final line of indirect evidence, which I mention only briefly here, is inscriptions and iconography. Maya captives and other military themes appear in the iconography particularly beginning in the Early Classic period (ca. A.D. 250-350) (e.g., Marcus, 1974; Stuart, 1993). By A.D. 750-800, rulers are carrying weapons (Marcus, 1974, 1976). Even though direct evidence for warfare does indeed exist, claims for large-scale warfare based solely on indirect evidence may need to be modified. The ancient Maya political economy was funded by the surrounding populace. A key strategy center and local elites used to attract followers (dispersed farmers) was ritual and, when possible, economic means (e.g., water management). Coercive force was not an option because of the ability for farmers to flee to hinterland areas or to other centers. Consequently, large-scale warfare never became a strategy for elites to acquire power. The Classic Maya collapsehow it is defined, whom it affected, when it occurredvaried and depended upon local circumstances.

CONCLUDING REMARKS In this paper, I have presented current archaeological evidence relating to Classic Maya political organization. Clearly, the varied natural (seasonality, local resources) and social (subsistence technology, settlement patterns) landscapes resulted in a multitude of political histories throughout the lowlands, including how they arose and collapsed. As such, it is not possible to apply one model to all areas. As many Maya archaeologists emphasize, however, there are several shared features that link the Maya, especially elite paraphernalia and interaction (e.g., long-distance access to exotics, labor to build public and private monumental architecture). Recent research is increasingly revealing how nonelites lived, including how they subsisted

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and interacted locally (production, consumption, and distribution of utilitarian goods) and with elites (ritual events, labor projects, feasting). Understanding the entire spectrum of ancient Maya society along with grasping the local resource availability leads us closer to elucidating how different political systems worked and articulated with one another through space and time. Regional comparisons are vital to this endeavor, particularly in terms of site chronology, size and configuration, available resources, subsistence practices, and ritual activities. Data are becoming more easily available to accomplish this goal, for example, through the Internet. Project and general Maya websites provide updated research information. In addition, advances in tropical archaeology are continuing to improve data collection methods (e.g., Stahl, 1995). Out of our control, however, are urban (or village) sprawl (e.g., Garber et al, 1997) and outright site destruction. Recently in Belize (summer, 1998), the archaeology community was stunned to discover that most of the core of Nohmul was bulldozed under the auspices of a government ministry. Archaeologists are doing what they can to help prevent further destruction of the archaeological record. For example, Fedick (1996c) uses his soil classification system (mentioned above) as a means to assist in the cultural resource management of ancient Maya sites to identify risk areas, especially smaller residential sites. He notes that much of prehistoric settlement is located in areas not suitable for mechanical cultivation because it is too rocky. Alluvial settlements, however, are in danger since these areas can be mechanically plowed. Looting, of course, is an ever-present problem. One only has to read recent press releases to know that this is a major problem (e.g., News and Notes, 1995). For example, Hansen (1997) discusses the challenges the Guatemalan government faces in fighting to keep its patrimony, especially when estimates are that more than 10,000 objects are looted each year in Guatemala alone (see also Prensa Libre, IDAEH, 1995). Looting occurs in both isolated and protected areas. For example, while Caracol is a popular tourist destination in Belize, has full-time caretakers, and is located within a protected reserve, looting still occurs regularly. Reents-Budet (1994) presents a history of the "collecting" of Pre-Columbian "art" and presents both sides of the collecting/looting issue. Public education, especially highlighting the destruction and loss of information through looting, is the only way to lessen the value of Maya artifacts. She also notes that some museums are slow to enact 1983 UNESCO guidelines regarding the agreement on cultural property. On a relatively minor note, I think that the field of archaeology might be served better if we use the term "iconography" in publications and lectures rather than "art." Art is a relatively recent phenomenon (we have yet to excavate an ancient art museum) and largely

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a modern Western concept. On the other hand, iconography is a conceptual term that reflects the fact that symbols can reflect an ancient belief system. The use of this term rather than art will provide a basis to differentiate artifact from art when we are attempting to educate potential buyers of black-market artifacts. Another way to reach the public is through the growing field of ecotourism, such as that seen at Xunantunich (Leventhal, 1995) and El Pilar (Ford, 1998a, b; see also Wernecke, 1994). The El Pilar Archaeological Reserve for Maya Flora and Fauna in Belize and Guatemala promotes biodiversity through its forest gardens, community involvement through a grassrootsbased organization, Amigos de El Pilar, local investment, and stewardship. Ironically, increased ecotourism and education, in conjunction with recent political activism tied to the past (especially in Mexico and Guatemala), might result in an increasing difficulty in excavating certain classes of prehistoric features (e.g., burials). In conclusion, the field of Maya archaeology has come a long way in illuminating Classic lowland Maya political organization. While certain factors are out of our control (e.g., looting), the archaeological record is rich and continues to reveal new insights on the ancient Maya.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS I am grateful to T. Patrick Culbert, Joyce Marcus, Scott Rushforth, David Stuart, William H. Walker, and anonymous reviewers for their helpful suggestions. Of course, I take full responsibility for the final result. I especially want to thank colleagues who sent me reprints, books, unpublished papers, and information. I also apologize for any misrepresentations of anyone's work, as well as for any inadvertent omissions.

REFERENCES
Abrams, E. M. (1994). How the Maya Built Their World: Energetics and Ancient Architecture, University of Texas Press, Austin. Abrams, E. M. (1995). A model of fluctuating labor value and the establishment of state power: An application to the prehispanic Maya. Latin American Antiquity 6: 196-213. Abrams, E. M., and Freter, A. (1996). A Late Classic lime-plaster kiln from the Maya centre of Copdn, Honduras. Antiquity 70: 422-428. Abrams, E. M., and Rue, D. J. (1988). The causes and consequences of deforestation among the prehistoric Maya. Human Ecology 16: 377-395. Adams, R. E. W. (1994). Introduction. In Adams, R. E. W. (ed.), The Programme for Belize Archaeological Project: 1993 Interim Report, University of Texas, San Antonio, pp. 1-5. Adams, R. E. W. (1995). Early Classic Maya civilization: A view from Rio Azul. In N. Grube

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