Two thousand years ago, the ancient Maya civilization emerged as a regional power in Central America, with sophisticated city-states, hieroglyphic literacy, exquisite ceramics, and the most advanced astronomy in the New World. The evolution of political and economic systems that supported the civilization is at the heart of a new book on the Maya, co-edited by former Earthwatch principal investigator Dr. Marilyn Masson (State University of New York, Albany). Ancient Maya Political Economies examines variations in economic production and exchange and their role in the power networks of Maya society.
Including chapters by leading researchers, Ancient Maya Political Economies challenges the conventional wisdom of decentralized Maya political authority and replaces it with a more complex view of the foundations of Maya civilization. Some authors offer a broad perspective on the political economy of Classic period core centers, while others look at more specific cases of economic activity. Masson’s chapter on Postclassic Maya in northeastern Belize, based on research supported by Earthwatch in the 1990s, contradicts traditional theory that the collapse of Classic Maya civilization led to the disintegration of great city-states. Ancient Maya Political Economies is a valuable addition to our understanding of how the flow of utilitarian goods support ruling classes, in the ancient past as well as today.
Ancient Maya Political Economies. Edited by Marilyn A. Masson and David Freidel. AltaMira Press, 2002.