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Architecture and the Origins of Preclassic Maya Politics
 9781107145375, 1107145376

Table of contents :
Cover
Half-title page
Title page
Copyright page
Contents
Figures
Preface and Acknowledgments
One Introduction
The Preclassic Maya
Overview of the Ancient Maya
Pushing the Limits
Constructing Social Meanings
Urbanism and Politics
Social Transformations: Gathering, Monumentalization, and Abandonment as Resilience
Two Setting
Preclassic Cultural Traditions
Central Lowlands
Petén Lakes and Eastward
Southern Plateau Boundary
El Mirador Area
El Palmar, Guatemala: Case Study
Three Mesoamerican and Maya Monumentality, Identity, and Politics
The Archaeology of Monumentality
Mesoamerican Monumentality and Kingship
Maya Monumentality
Maya Invisible Dwellings and Invisible Gatherings
The First (Detectable) Settlements: 1000–700 BC
The Rise of Rectangularity: 700–500 BC
Conclusions
Four Middle Preclassic Maya E-Group Plazas: Distribution and Geopolitics, 800–300 BC
Early Maya Construction Techniques
E-Groups
E-Group Chronology
E-Group Form
E-Group Distribution and Early Maya Politics
Constructing E-Group Meaning in the Middle Preclassic
Religious Implications
Conclusions
Five The Architecture and Spaces of the Early Ajaw, ca. 300–1 BC
Late Preclassic Maya Architectural Techniques
Central Lowlands Monumental Architecture and Sculpture
The Monumentalization of E-Groups
Late Preclassic El Palmar E-Group Chronology
Central Lowlands Triadic Groups
Investigations in the El Palmar Triadic Group
Triadic Groups and Late Preclassic Site Planning
Prior Research on Maya Site Planning
The Triadic Group and Preclassic Maya Site Planning
Meanings of Late Preclassic Site Planning
Monumental E-Groups: Under Whose Authority?
Conclusions: Motivations for and Effects of Maya Monumentalization
Six Migration and Abandonment
The Archaeology of Abandonment and "
Collapse"
The First Maya "Collapse"
: The End of the Preclassic
Settlement Rupture: Abandonment and Continuity in the Central Lowlands
Unsustainable Buildings: Monumental Triadic Groups
Material Changes: The Elusive Protoclassic
Incomplete Collapse of El Palmar: Abandonment and Resilience
Conclusions
Seven The Preclassic Big Picture
Conclusions
Archaeology of Emerging Maya Politics
Final Considerations
Bibliography
Index

Citation preview

ARCHITECTURE AND THE ORIGINS OF PRECLASSIC MAYA POLITICS

Architecture and the Origins of Preclassic Maya Politics highlights the dramatic changes in the relationship of ancient Maya peoples to the landscape and to each other in the Preclassic period (ca. 2000 BC–AD 250). Offering a comprehensive history of Preclassic Maya society, James Doyle focuses on recent discoveries of early writing, mural painting, stone monuments, and evidence of divine kingship that have reshaped our understanding of cultural developments in the first millennium BC. He also addresses one of the crucial concerns of contemporary archaeology: the emergence of political authorities and their subjects in early complex polities. Doyle shows how architectural trends in the Maya Lowlands in the Preclassic period exhibit the widespread cross-cultural link between monumental architecture of imposing intent, human collaboration, and urbanism. James Doyle is an archaeologist and Assistant Curator of the Art of the Ancient Americas at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. His areas of expertise include the art and archaeology of Mesoamerica, Central America, and Colombia. He has contributed to major art exhibitions, writes for the museum’s blog, and promotes pre-Columbian art and archaeology through social media.

ARCHITECTURE AND THE ORIGINS OF PRECLASSIC MAYA POLITICS JAMES DOYLE The Metropolitan Museum of Art

University Printing House, Cambridge cb2 8bs, United Kingdom One Liberty Plaza, 20th Floor, New York, ny 10006, USA 477 Williamstown Road, Port Melbourne, vic 3207, Australia 4843/24, 2nd Floor, Ansari Road, Daryaganj, Delhi – 110002, India 79 Anson Road, #06–04/06, Singapore 079906 Cambridge University Press is part of the University of Cambridge. It furthers the University’s mission by disseminating knowledge in the pursuit of education, learning, and research at the highest international levels of excellence. www.cambridge.org Information on this title: www.cambridge.org/9781107145375 10.1017/9781107145375 © Cambridge University Press 2017 This publication is in copyright. Subject to statutory exception and to the provisions of relevant collective licensing agreements, no reproduction of any part may take place without the written permission of Cambridge University Press. First published 2017 Printed in the United States of America by Sheridan Books, Inc. A catalogue record for this publication is available from the British Library. Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data names: Doyle, James A., 1983– author. title: Architecture and the origins of preclassic Maya politics / James Doyle. description: Cambridge, United Kingdom ; New York, NY : Cambridge University Press, 2016. | Includes bibliographical references and index. identifiers: lccn 2016031779 | isbn 9781107145375 (hardback) subjects: lcsh: Maya architecture. | Mayas – Politics and government. | Mayas – Antiquities. | Architecture – Political aspects – Mexico – History – To 1500. | Architecture – Political aspects – Central America – History – To 1500. | Landscape archaeology – Mexico. | Landscape archaeology – Central America. | Social archaeology – Mexico. | Social archaeology – Central America. classification: lcc f1435.3.a6 d68 2016 | ddc 972/.6–dc23 LC record available at https://lccn.loc.gov/2016031779 isbn 978-1-107-14537-5 Hardback Cambridge University Press has no responsibility for the persistence or accuracy of URLs for external or third-party Internet websites referred to in this publication and does not guarantee that any content on such websites is, or will remain, accurate or appropriate.

CONTENTS

List of Figures Preface and Acknowledgments 1 INTRODUCTION

The Preclassic Maya Overview of the Ancient Maya Pushing the Limits Constructing Social Meanings Urbanism and Politics Social Transformations: Gathering, Monumentalization, and Abandonment as Resilience 2 SETTING

Preclassic Cultural Traditions Central Lowlands Petén Lakes and Eastward Southern Plateau Boundary El Mirador Area El Palmar, Guatemala: Case Study 3 MESOAMERICAN AND MAYA MONUMENTALITY, IDENTITY, AND POLITICS

The Archaeology of Monumentality Mesoamerican Monumentality and Kingship Maya Monumentality Maya Invisible Dwellings and Invisible Gatherings The First (Detectable) Settlements: 1000–700 BC The Rise of Rectangularity: 700–500 BC Conclusions 4 MIDDLE PRECLASSIC MAYA E-GROUP PLAZAS: DISTRIBUTION AND GEOPOLITICS, 800–300 BC

Early Maya Construction Techniques

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2 3 5 6 9 12 15

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27 28 30 31 33 34 36

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C O NT E NT S

E-Groups E-Group Chronology E-Group Form E-Group Distribution and Early Maya Politics Constructing E-Group Meaning in the Middle Preclassic Religious Implications Conclusions 5 THE ARCHITECTURE AND SPACES OF THE EARLY AJAW, ca. 300–1 BC

42 47 58 59 63 63 69

71

Late Preclassic Maya Architectural Techniques 72 Central Lowlands Monumental Architecture and Sculpture 75 The Monumentalization of E-Groups 75 Late Preclassic El Palmar E-Group Chronology 79 Central Lowlands Triadic Groups 81 Investigations in the El Palmar Triadic Group 88 Triadic Groups and Late Preclassic Site Planning 90 Prior Research on Maya Site Planning 90 The Triadic Group and Preclassic Maya Site Planning 91 Meanings of Late Preclassic Site Planning 95 Monumental E-Groups: Under Whose Authority? 103 Conclusions: Motivations for and Effects of Maya Monumentalization 106 6 MIGRATION AND ABANDONMENT

The Archaeology of Abandonment and “Collapse” The First Maya “Collapse”: The End of the Preclassic Settlement Rupture: Abandonment and Continuity in the Central Lowlands Unsustainable Buildings: Monumental Triadic Groups Material Changes: The Elusive Protoclassic Incomplete Collapse of El Palmar: Abandonment and Resilience Conclusions 7 THE PRECLASSIC BIG PICTURE

Conclusions Archaeology of Emerging Maya Politics Final Considerations

Bibliography Index

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111 112 114 123 125 129 139 140

140 143 145

147 168

FIGURES

1.1 1.2 2.1 2.2 2.3 3.1 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 4.5 4.6

4.7 4.8 4.9

4.10 4.11 4.12 4.13 4.14 4.15 4.16 4.17 5.1 5.2

Cruciform cache at Cival. Timeline of cultural periods in the Maya Lowlands. Map of Maya Lowlands with regional cultural traditions. Detail map of Central Lowlands’ cultural tradition sites. Detail map of Buenavista Valley with sites mentioned in the text. Earliest Maya architecture. Examples of apsidal, keyhole-shaped, and circular low platforms. Plan of the E-Group Plaza at Yaxha, Guatemala. Early examples of stucco modeling, Hunahpu structure, San Bartolo. Map showing sites with E-Groups in the Central Lowlands area. Diagram of idealized E-Group. (Above) Plan of El Palmar E-Group. (Below) Plan of Mundo Perdido, Tikal, Late Preclassic Period. (a) Cross section of El Palmar Structures E4-1 and E4-4 with profiles of excavated areas. (Below) Reconstruction cross section of Tikal Structures 5C-54 and 5D-86. (b) Reconstructed sequence of El Palmar Structures E4-1 and E4-4. Representative Preclassic ceramic vessels recovered from El Palmar and the Buenavista Valley. (a) Possible posthole, excavation unit EP-8A-15, with blue jade polished biface reduction flake in situ, (b) blue jade in laboratory. Structure E4-1-5th: (a) north-section profile, EP-8A-13; (b) photograph of EP-8A-13; (c) photographs of EP-8A-13 and EP-8A-14. Semicomplete vessel from EP-8A-14, deposited during the construction of E4-1-4th. Structure E4-1-4th, units EP-8A-9 and EP-8A-10. Middle Preclassic figurine heads recovered from El Palmar. Middle Preclassic stucco floor samples recovered from El Palmar Structure E4-1: (a) EP-8A-16-1 and (b) EP-8A-14-7. Viewsheds from El Palmar (white) and Tikal (dark gray). Viewsheds from sites with Middle Preclassic E-Groups. Viewsheds from all E-Group sites. Fill of El Palmar E-Group pyramid, Structure E4-1–4. (Inset) Chert flakes recovered. Photograph of Uaxactun E-VII-sub. Diagram of Maya apron molding.

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49 50 52

53 54 55 56 57 60 61 62 67 73 74 vii

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LIST OF FIGUR ES

5.3 Ricketson and Ricketson’s reconstruction drawing of Uaxactun E-VII-sub east facade: (a) upper zone; (b) middle zone; (c) lower zone. 5.4 Mundo Perdido mask (Structure 5D-86). 5.5 Exterior walls of El Palmar E4-1-2nd. 5.6 Excavations at the summit of Structure E4-1-1: (a) north profile of EP-8B; (b) remains of summit building walls; (c) floor of summit building. 5.7 Megalithic stair blocks covered in plaster, El Palmar Structure E4-1-1: (a) profile of stair and floor constructions; (b) photograph of stairs in situ; (c) block during removal. 5.8 Monumental masks, Late Preclassic period. Comparison of masks from (a) Cerros, (b) Cival, (c) Holmul, (d) San Bartolo. 5.9 Comparison of masks from (a) Nakbe, (b) El Mirador, (c) El Pesquero. 5.10 Photographs of stacked cut-block construction, El Palmar Triadic Group, unit EP-2A-1. 5.11 Stucco pieces and painted-red apron molding, El Palmar Triadic Group. 5.12 (a) El Palmar site map with plaza dimensions overlaid on major structures: (b) Triadic Group; (c) Structure E4-5; (d) Structure E5-5; (e) Platform E5-7; (f) South Group. 5.13 Central El Mirador with El Leon Group plaza highlighted. 5.14 Other sites with possible proportional planning in the Late Preclassic: (a) Tikal; (b) Yaxha; (c) Calakmul. 5.15 El Palmar Structure E4-4 cache plates. 5.16 San Bartolo E-Group. 6.1 Possible defensive wall, Cival. 6.2 Examples of massive, restricted courtyard Triadic architecture: (a) El Palmar; (b) Cival; (c) reconstruction drawing of El Tigre, El Mirador; (d) final phase, Las Pinturas, San Bartolo. 6.3 Examples of low, open Triadic architecture: (a) reconstruction of North Acropolis, Tikal, Late Preclassic period; (b) Group H, Uaxactun; (c) reconstruction drawing of Naranjo Group B-5; (d) Yaxha North Acropolis and Northeast Acropolis Groups. 6.4 Location of Triadic Group B-5, Naranjo, in relation to the E-Group plaza. 6.5 (a) Detail of Stela 43, Yaxha; (b and c) detail of stucco facade, Yaxha, North Acropolis. 6.6 Southern building of the Group-E plaza, Uaxactun: (a) plan; (b) plan; (c) reconstruction drawing. 6.7 Same-scale comparison of Triadic Groups from (a) Uaxactun and (b) El Mirador. 6.8 Photographs of possible eroded frieze, Unit EP-9A-1. 6.9 Photographs and drawings of Protoclassic ceramics, El Palmar. 6.10 Analysis of the Buenavista Valley corridor.

76 77 80

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92 94 96 99 106 114

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LIST OF FIGU RES

6.11 Excavations at the summit of Structure E4-1-1: (a) north profile of EP-8B; (b) remains of summit building walls; (c) floor of summit building (photographs by Arturo Godoy). Outlined areas indicate possible Early Classic resurfacing of floor and areas where obsidian was recovered. 6.12 Early Classic E-Group materials: (a) photograph and drawing of Cubierta Impressed pot, Structure E4-1; (b) photograph of Early Classic chert biface, Structure E4-1; (c) photograph of green obsidian eccentric, Structure E4-4. 6.13 Excavation EP-5B-1: (a) excerpt of profile drawing with designated lots; (b) photograph of crude floor, possibly Early Classic resurfacing, lot EP-5B-1-3; (c) photograph of lot EP-5B-1-4 (red), possible lens of abandonment above the Late Preclassic floor; (d) photograph of lot EP-5B-1-5, the latest in a series of three Late Preclassic floors. 6.14 Photographs and drawings from EP-5A-1: (a) profile drawing by Rony Piedrasanta; (b) plan drawing by Rony Piedrasanta; (c) plan photograph. 6.15 Burial, unit EP-5C-1: (a) composite photograph by author; (b) drawing by Rony Piedrasanta; (c) burial goods, lots EP-5C-1-2 and EP-5C-1-3. 6.16 Ceramic artifacts from the “Templo de Agua” deposit, Early Classic period. 6.17 Polished dark greenstone bead fragments recovered from the “Templo de Agua.” 6.18 Probable Early Classic tomb, Structure E5-1.

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ix

PREFACE AND ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

The two organizing principles of this book are to synthesize original field research and recent Preclassic Maya discoveries and to place the early Maya in the context of the anthropology of past political systems. The primary archaeological data presented here come from four seasons of field and laboratory research (2008–2011) that I conducted in conjunction with Guatemalan archaeologists Varinia Matute and Rony Piedrasanta at El Palmar, located approximately 15 km to the west of the great Maya city of Tikal. The work at El Palmar formed a part of the El Zotz Archaeological Project (Proyecto Arqueológico El Zotz – PAEZ), directed by Stephen Houston (Director, 2007–2012) and Thomas Garrison (Co-Director 2009–2012, Director 2012–present), Héctor Escobedo (Co-Director, 2007), Ernesto Arredondo (Co-Director 2008–2009), Edwin Román (Co-Director, 2009–present), and Timothy Beach (Director of Paleoenvironmental Studies, 2009–present). This fieldwork came to fruition through generous support from the US National Science Foundation (BCS #1023274 – Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grant), the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research (Dissertation Fieldwork Grant), the Brown University Graduate School and Department of Anthropology, and the Tinker Foundation with the Brown University Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies. Major PAEZ funders included the US National Science Foundation (BCS #0840930 – Landscape Succession in Lowland Maya Archaeology, Houston and Garrison PIs), the US National Endowment for the Humanities (Grant #RZ-50680–07 – Archaeology of El Zotz, Guatemala, Houston PI), and the Brown University Dupee Family Professorship of Social Sciences (Stephen Houston, Chair). The Guatemalan Institute of Anthropology and History granted permission for the work at El Palmar as part of the larger PAEZ research from 2007–2011. Several specialists, made available with funding from PAEZ major grants, collaborated on the El Palmar materials, including Dr. Andrew Scherer (project osteologist), Dr. Zachary Hruby (project lithicist), and Dr. Ronald Bishop (ceramic compositional analyst). Laboratory work on the El Palmar materials was made possible through generous use of PAEZ-funded facilities and storage spaces throughout the dissertation project. Other PAEZ members who were xi

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PREFACE AND ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

invaluable to the work were my fellow doctoral students, including Melanie Kingsley, Nicholas Carter, and Sarah Newman. The wider community of scholars working in Guatemala also lent moral support throughout the research process, including Lucia Henderson, Caitlin Earley, Betsy Marzahn-Ramos, and many others. Finally, I owe a great deal of gratitude to the many talented excavation assistants from Cruce Dos Aguadas and Dolores, Petén, especially Geovany Franco Chonay and Roger Alvarado, who did exceptional work throughout multiple seasons. I also received practical support in Guatemala as a Visiting Scholar Resident at the Casa Herrera (Mesoamerica Center at the University of Texas at Austin). This book would never have been possible without the generosity of Harvard University’s Dumbarton Oaks Library and Research Collection, where I served as a Junior Fellow for the 2011–2012 academic year, and a PostDoctoral Associate in Pre-Columbian Studies in 2013–2014. Director of Pre-Columbian Studies Colin McEwan, Librarian Bridget Gazzo, and program associates Emily Jacobs and Kelly McKenna provided an ideal environment for reflection and writing. I am indebted to my cohort of Pre-Columbian Fellows for their insights, including Luis Jaime Castillo, Yuichi Matsumoto, Andrew Hamilton, and especially my fellow Mayanists Linda Brown, Laura Gámez, and Elizabeth Paris. Most of the writing for the manuscript took place at Dumbarton Oaks, and I am grateful also to Carole Sargent of Georgetown University for her support of my writing during my tenure as an adjunct faculty member. Andrew Scherer, Doug Anderson, Takeshi Inomata, and Thomas Garrison also provided much food for thought in discussions and written comments. The manuscript and figures were completed at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, where I currently serve as Assistant Curator of the Art of the Ancient Americas in the Department of the Arts of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas. My curatorial colleagues Alisa LaGamma, Maia Nuku, and Yaëlle Biro have been extremely supportive in our collective writing projects. Joanne Pillsbury, Andrall E. Pearson Curator of the Art of the Ancient Americas, deserves special mention for her tireless mentorship and unwavering support in finishing this book. Above all, I thank Stephen Houston, who supervised both my education at Brown and my fieldwork at El Palmar and continues to inspire me as an archaeologist and a curator. His vision and intellectual spirit have influenced me greatly, and I am eternally grateful for his guidance. I also thank David Freidel and one anonymous reviewer for constructive criticism. At Cambridge University Press, Asya Graf has provided invaluable editorial guidance and support throughout the publishing process. Finally, I must mention the unwavering support of my friends and family, which has kept me going throughout the years. Pablo Suárez Becerra has cheered me on from near and far, and this project would not have been possible

PREFACE AND ACKNOW LEDGMENTS

without him. My extended family’s encouragement has always been an inspiration to me, especially that of my admirable younger brother, Stuart, and sister-in-law, Anna. I dedicate this work to my parents, Alan and Cathy Doyle, who raised me right. Their steady guidance has helped me with every step of this process, and I will forever thank them.

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ONE

INTRODUCTION

T

he study of ancient politics is a messy endeavor. the basic questions are not the problems: How did past societies organize themselves, and how and why did those organizational strategies succeed or fail? Yet archaeologists can only glean social choices and cultural meanings from materials and architecture and by identifying where people built their lives. Acknowledging the inherent challenges we face to understand fully how ancient peoples conceived and narrated their own beliefs, this book puts forth a new take on an old story to understand how political authorities emerged. Archaeology has long centered on investigating the rise and fall of societies by targeting political institutions and the individuals and groups that embody them. Early anthropologists sought to identify the cross-cultural emergence of hierarchy, motivated by the need to explain or justify modern schemes of power or, conversely, to incite action against power structures. One of the key questions of broader social science became the relationship of agency, or an individual’s capacity for intentional choices and actions, to structure, or predetermined sociocultural systems and norms. Later studies moved away from structure and institutions to highlight the relationship of individuals to each other within frameworks of everyday politics reinforced by ingrained practices. Navigating social change is a universally human experience, and as we explore themes of belonging to communities and domination over people and landscape, we ultimately learn about ourselves. 1

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INTRODUCTION

THE PRECLASSIC MAYA

The Preclassic Maya period (ca. 1000 BC–AD 250) is an ideal case study to address global emerging politics. I focus here on the cross-cultural link between monumentality, the quality of human collaborations and buildings having enlarged size or imposing intent, and what is sometimes called urbanism, the tendency of humans to live in densely aggregated settlements. During the Preclassic, farming families who had cemented their place on the landscape near reliable water sources began to create a built environment that engendered permanence. Eventually, the descendants of the early agricultural villagers cooperated to build some of the largest structures ever built in the ancient Americas. Recent discoveries allow archaeologists to chart collective shifts in Maya material and aesthetic values before the rise and fall of the Classicperiod (ca. AD 250–900) kingdoms. Thus, within the broader field of anthropology, this study forms a vital bridge between the more abstract discussions of the nature of inequality among human societies and the specific biography of a well-known civilization, in this case, the Classic-period Maya. An interest in the earliest Maya often comes unexpectedly, whether from stumbling on magnificent murals while lost in the jungle or simply expecting Classic remains and finding earlier materials. The earliest explorers in the Maya area began to suspect that the grandiose Classic cities did not arise spontaneously but after generations of “early Maya” (Ricketson and Ricketson 1937) or “pre-Classic” Maya settlement (Smith 1950: 4). In fact, by the time work ended in the large-scale excavations at Tikal, Guatemala, William Coe (1965: 1417) had concluded that “by about 100 B.C. . . . the known cultural traits are basically indistinguishable from those of Classic times.” Recent discoveries have perhaps tempered the awe or surprise of yesterday by consistently showing that the Preclassic groups in the Maya heartland defy traditional narratives of “simple” precursors to “complex” Classic societies. One of these discoveries (Figure 1.1), the multilayer cruciform cache at Cival, Guatemala, sparked my own interest in the Preclassic Maya. The offering of jade axes and pebbles covered with large water jars marked a dedicatory event in which one ancient group celebrated new beginnings. Witnessing the remains of such a sumptuous foundation event led me to question why people would invest so heavily to build their communities in such unlikely a place as the sweltering lowland tropical forest. Before the Classic-period, Maya peoples were constructing monumental buildings and gathering spaces, producing sophisticated ceramic items, sculpting masterpiece works out of stone and stucco, and engaging in mural painting with extensive hieroglyphic texts. Unfortunately, the subsequent search for Classic traits in Preclassic times clouded some of the more important questions about early Maya societies. In other words, research on the Preclassic Maya was

OVERVIEW OF THE ANCIENT MAYA

1.1. Cruciform cache at Cival. (From Estrada-Belli 2012: fig. 2.)

stunted in a sense by overreliance on interpretation using a Classic-period lens. To compare, it would be like studying the early Roman Empire by using models and methods developed for the early Byzantine Empire. Here, rather than asking loaded questions such as, What is the early evidence of divine kingship? I instead ask, What do material remains, such as spatial distribution of early communities, common building and production practices, and shared imagery tell us about how early Maya peoples self-organized? I argue that people founded community centers, places of social communion and exchange, at specific places on the landscape that reflected commonly held beliefs in a solar cosmology and aesthetic ecology. These early centers of emerging urbanism, and the gathering of people therein, facilitated the development of divine kingship and coordinated political interactions. OVERVIEW OF THE ANCIENT MAYA

Ancient Mayan language-speaking peoples occupied the Lowlands of the Yucatan Peninsula from archaic times to the present, with an apogee of preHispanic population in the Late Classic-period (Figure 1.2). Most information

3

4 MIDDLE PRECLASSIC 1000–300 BC

EARLY CLASSIC AD 250–900

LATE PRECLASSIC 300 BC–AD 250

900 BC 800 BC 700 BC 600 BC 500 BC 400 BC 300 BC 200 BC 100 BC

1.2. Timeline of cultural periods in the Maya Lowlands.

1 AD

LATE CLASSIC AD 550–900

100 AD 200 AD 300 AD 400 AD 500 AD 600 AD 700 AD 800 AD

PUSHING T HE LIMITS

on preceramic (i.e., pre-1000 BC) populations comes from modern-day Belize, where cave excavations and chance finds of projectile points indicate that hunters lived in the area very early. Environmental evidence suggests that small groups were clearing forest and farming maize and other crops as early as the third millennium BC but conspicuously not building permanent settlements or engaging in ceramic production until after 1000 BC. During the Middle Preclassic period (ca. 1000–300 BC), the Maya built the first major ceremonial centers, perhaps as a result of increased interaction with peoples from the Gulf Coast or Isthmian regions who had prior large centers and ceramic traditions. The Late Preclassic period (ca. 300 BC–AD 250) marks one peak in the dynamic cycles of Maya centers, in which early kings built gigantic pyramids and commissioned elaborate sculptures to adorn their facades. The traditional focus of Mayaland research has been the dynastic royal courts and surrounding settlements of the Early and Late Classic-periods (ca. AD 250–900). Intriguing clues about the interaction of Maya peoples with the faraway urban society of Teotihuacan in Central Mexico have fueled research at several sites with Early Classic monuments and constructions. The realistic portraits, murals, and rich tombs of Late Classic rulers captured the imagination of several generations of archaeologists and dreamers. Later centers from the Terminal Classic and Postclassic periods (ca. 900–1500), such as Chichen Itza, still attract tourists today with their eclectic building styles and past narratives of mystery. Aside from the fascinating culture history, how do the ancient Maya contribute to the field of anthropology? The most obvious contribution has been through the decipherment of the hieroglyphic writing system, from both linguistic and historical perspectives, which has formed a foundation for understanding of pre-Columbian thought. The Classic Maya have also long served as a prime case of unique governance practices and low-density urban settlements. One crucial question in the coming years will be that of socioenvironmental sustainability of people in a tropical ecological context. Although the famed “collapse” gets more attention, the sheer number of years and size of populations that Lowland Maya practices sustained are truly remarkable in the ancient world. PUSHING THE LIMITS

Although research on Maya origins has gained traction in recent years, several challenges limit research on the Preclassic Maya. On a very practical level, the remains are buried under later buildings, constructed by descendant populations. Similarly, the megascalar aspects of some of the Preclassic buildings preclude them from extensive study. In times of constrained budgets

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INTRODUCTION

and environmental limitations, archaeologists have selectively scratched the surface of the Preclassic Maya world. Material culture studies subsequently suffer from the problem that lowresolution chronological sequencing does not adequately account for the diversity of material culture over time. For example, as many have noted, the earliest ceramics in the area share certain production characteristics, but regional differences also exist. Or, during the Late Preclassic, ceramic surface decorations are nearly uniform across most of the Maya area, impeding a clear picture of settlement chronologies. The fullest picture of chronology in relation to material culture comes from the work of Takeshi Inomata and his team at the site of Ceibal, a model for future work on coordinating radiocarbon dates with ceramic sequences (see Inomata et al. 2013). Perhaps the most pressing challenge to understanding Preclassic society is that the households of ordinary people elude archaeological work in most places. This is so because of both an investigative focus on monumental centers and a lack of methods to locate and extensively excavate early residential compounds. It is no surprise that research in monumental cores dominates in the Maya area, as has been the case in all corners of the globe. The Maya case presents similar ecological challenges to Amazonia or Southeast Asia because of the extent of forest cover overlying major sites. Alternatively, land grabs and destruction of sites also plague research in deforested areas. Where forests still grow, ordinary households are extremely difficult to recognize through traditional means of ground survey. We still lack vital information necessary to clarify the relationships of the humblest dwellings to larger communities to emerging authorities. This challenge to Preclassic Maya research has led to a reliance on outmoded understandings of ancient politics focused on the search for material correlates of “states,” “chiefdoms,” and the like. This is most apparent in the extensive back-and-forth regarding the Maya and other early Mesoamerican peoples, namely the “Olmec” from the Gulf Coast of Mexico (see Pool 2007). Instead of approaching the tired question of what evidence exists that the Gulf Coast “Olmec” influenced emerging political authority in the Maya Lowlands, I focus on what distinct choices Maya populations made in the face of intense interaction with these other societies between about 1000 BC and AD 250. CONSTRUCTING SOCIAL MEANINGS

The main archaeological information I draw on comes from three different scales of analysis. At the coarsest level, I am interested in the distribution of early Maya centers in the Central Lowlands, specifically with respect to factors such as visibility of the landscape and routes of exchange (see Doyle 2012; Doyle, Garrison, and Houston 2012). At the site level, my research focuses on

C O NST R U CT I N G S O C I AL ME A NI N GS

the architectural sequences of particular buildings and the relationship of those buildings and spaces to each other. I especially consider the implementation of a larger vision in the design of community centers (see Doyle 2013). At finegrained resolution, this book addresses the materials and practices of everyday life, mostly through ceramic and lithic artifacts, but including the environmental milieu of the Preclassic period. My objective is to build a model for the Preclassic Maya based on available evidence that perhaps highlights that social meanings of materials and architecture were vastly different from those of the successor cultures in the Classic-period. Painting a picture of everyday life in the early Maya Lowlands begins with the environmental canvas. The complex interactions of climate, weather patterns, seasonal fluctuations, and the life cycles of flora and fauna all constituted the necessary substrate for human activity in the area. This is not to say that environment alone determines human behavior and the relative successes or failures of communities; rather, human interaction with the environment is of paramount importance to understanding the priorities and worldviews of certain peoples. New research on ancient deforestation and agricultural activities has begun to deepen our understanding of what the earliest settlers in the Maya area were growing, eating, and discarding. Discarded items removed from the daily circulation in households also inform outside observers about the quotidian actions of individuals and groups in the past. The Preclassic Maya remains are tricky, as mentioned earlier, because the vast majority come from contexts such as architectural fills, wherein residents piled up broken pottery, lithic debitage, shattered figurines, and other items to contribute to the construction of new surfaces or buildings. One interesting question that remains for Preclassic archaeologists is, Are the items deposited in the fills of ceremonial buildings a representative sample of items used in everyday dwelling? In my own work, I have used the ceramic and lithic material mostly to construct chronological sequences rather than trying to draw broad conclusions about residents’ behaviors from the materials. Often we archaeologists excessively couch our conclusions with qualifiers such as “possibly” and “suggestively,” but I think with Preclassic material remains these terms are justified. We simply do not know enough about what items were deposited in monumental cores versus simply discarded in household contexts. However, Foias (2013: 6) points out why we should still care about pottery and other objects: All that human beings make (and that later archaeologists encounter as the archaeological record) is a series of discourses (about identity, power, ideology, etc.). By deciding to do anything in a particular manner, each

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individual is asserting his or her power to do it. The archaeological record accumulates through such decisions and actions and such assertions of power to do something. Figurines are the discourses of their makers, pottery vessels are the discourses of their potters, painted polychrome vases and stone monuments are the discourses of their makers and patrons, the royal elites, and so on.

Aside from the sequences of construction, germane to all archaeological studies of built environments of the global past, one of my goals with this book is to explore the relationships of buildings to each other and to the spaces that separate them. The obvious starting point is the role of plazas, or large, level gathering spaces, among early Maya communities. Plazas are often connected by purposeful routes meant to guide human movement and affect the experience of those who walked through on a daily basis, as well as periodic visitors to the monumental cores. The intense episodes of planning that must have guided the ancient builders in the Preclassic Maya Lowlands have not received adequate attention, other than brief conclusions that planning implies centralized institutions. How did the ancient Maya measure their plazas and building foundations, and what meanings do the geometric proportions and astronomical alignments suggest to the modern observer? Often, as we examine Maya sites from the bird’s-eye view – idealized Cartesian perspectives – we forget that techniques of planning and building produced individualized experiences for ancient individuals walking around these places, and that they never saw an entire site from plan view. The Cartesian trap also holds true for the distribution of early Maya communities. We rarely consider the movement of actual people and the effect that these routes of exchange and communication would have had on where and why people built monumental centers. Too often archaeologists speak of settlements as totalities, for example, “Tikal sought to . . .” or “Calakmul then attacked . . .” without truly explaining the implications of such actions. One of the objectives of this study is to address the question, Why are early Maya monumental centers where they are (and, consequently, not found in other places)? I suggest a hypothesis about landscape visibility based on analysis using the Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to perform viewshed studies that represent the area possibly visible from community centers. The conclusions from the study of the Central Maya Lowlands could be a window into broader early Maya geopolitics or the confluence of geographic factors and political order. Given that Classic-period textual metaphors invoke supervision of the actual landscape, it is possible that the earliest settlers decided where to build monumental centers based on what, or how far, they could see from a certain point on the landscape meaningful to them. However, GIS analysis makes it far too easy to depopulate the ancient Maya landscape, and human factors of risk and conflict probably played a pivotal role in where people built big things.

UR BANISM AND POLITICS

URBANISM AND POLITICS

One of the theoretical objectives of this book is to situate the case study of the Preclassic Maya among a growing body of studies in early complex societies, specifically within the global archaeology of emerging political authority. So what do I mean by “urbanism” and “politics”? In the early twentieth century, the social sciences began to collectively examine the concept of ancient and modern population centers, or “cities,” the “urbanization” processes that produced them, and the “urbanism” that analogous cities displayed (see Smith 2007). The first definitions of the city grew out of modern sociological demographics, and the city represented the better half of the divide between urban and rural, present and past (Marcus and Sabloff 2008: 6–10; Wirth 1938: 1–2). Since then, however, cities have eluded precise definition, and ancient cities ranged broadly in their size, meaning, functional organization, and durability. Recent archaeological research has described cities as complex foci of aggregated populations, wherein geographic proximity affects communication, social and kinship networks, political authority, and economic production and consumption (Marcus and Sabloff 2008: 13; M. L. Smith 2003: 8–12). Perhaps the biggest question that remains about ancient cities is, How do very different social and environmental factors produce archaeologically analogous settlements around the world and across time (Smith and Peregrine 2012: 5; Trigger 2003: 3)? In this book I approach early urbanism through the lens of city-as-experience, where the “sheer concentration of diverse functions, services, and activities” was a motivation for people to move to these new places (Marcus and Sabloff 2008: 21). Preclassic Maya cities can thus be seen as early creations engendered by proximity that attracted people through experiencing novel attitudes and events. In fact, one could view such cities as inventions specifically intended to satiate “the desire for increased interpersonal interaction” (Betz 2002: 113). The experiential aspect of cities – the ability to facilitate face-to-face experiences among populations – provides a promising avenue for archaeological research that could contribute to the examination of bottom-up approaches to ancient urbanism. It is thus impossible to divorce urbanism from political authority, although the correlation of cities to institutions is far from clear. Scholars have traditionally approached politics through two different perspectives: through institutions and their functions or through the politics of the everyday present in all interactions. This book aims to explore the intersections of the two traditional analyses by investigating the preconditions for institutions that lie in everyday practices. I argue that the earliest monumental building projects in the Maya Lowlands as pre- or proto-urban places were the nexus of this

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interaction, where people began to cooperate in pre- or proto-institutional politics. Investigations into the aggregations of populations and institutional expressions of political authority have a long-standing tradition in political anthropology. In the early studies of ancient politics, absolute leaders formed the primary analytical focus. The search for ancient “states” (as opposed to chiefdoms) led archaeologists to construct settlement hierarchies; that is, the larger the settlement, the more political power it likely held in the regional scheme. Recent critiques have pointed out that such tactics overemphasize “centralized administration, as well as the grandeur of the state,” which leads to a lack of consideration of what was likely local, nonstate apparatuses (Kosiba 2011: 119). Newer approaches consider politics as an omnipresent aspect of all human relations and that models of the ancient state neglected “what polities actually do” (Smith 2003: 80), mainly by suppressing or burying synchronic and diachronic variation and complexities of development (de Montmollin 1989: 14–15; Yoffee 2005: 31). Archaeology benefits from recent developments in political anthropology and political science, which provide new avenues of inquiry in the analysis of ancient politics (Flannery 1998: 15–16). For example, if the modern nation-state “can never be an empirical given” as a hierarchical administrative body and “is not reducible to government” (Trouillot 2001: 126–7), would the same hold true for ancient cultures? If true, then understanding archaic states by purely searching for archaeological correlates for statehood or complexity will only produce superficial understandings of what was actually occurring, which was probably turbulent, chaotic, and dissonant. Modern ethnographic inquiries into the human experience of a “mystifying illusion of a center of power called the state” provide a window into how ancient people may have experienced the “reality of disparate relations of power” (Aretxaga 2003: 401). Foias (2013: 5) goes so far as to challenge all archaeologists to “credit ancient states with as much complexity as we can envision for ourselves today rather than as despotic systems with monolithic politics and economies.” Only recently has archaeology embraced such a complex view of ancient political practice, highlighting such heuristic terms as “sovereignty,” “subjectivity,” and “performance.” Investigating multiscalar politics in the past necessarily involves the highest authority, or a sovereign person or body. In political theory, sovereignty “describes an ultimate authority, an apparatus of supremacy within a delimited territory that insinuates itself into all other domains of association – the home, the workplace, etc.” (Smith 2011b: 416; see also Smith 2011a, 2003). By insinuating itself, abstract sovereign power becomes “a tentative and always emergent form of authority grounded in violence that is performed and designed to generate loyalty,

UR BANISM AND POLITICS

fear, and legitimacy” (Hansen and Stepputat 2006: 297). By addressing developing sovereignty rather than the institutional end product, archaeologists might avoid certain pitfalls of prior research. The subject occupies the opposite role as the sovereign in the political spectrum. Individual subjectivities, or how people self-represent and present themselves to each other through words, images, institutions, and behaviors (see Biehl, Good, and Kleinman 2007), are elusive to archaeologists without copious texts and images. Smith (2003: 182–3) notes, “[I]n the case of early complex polities, the subject has been discouragingly undertheorized . . . only at rare moments has the relation between authority and subject in early complex polities been more explicitly theorized as a relationship problem for a political apparatus.” Furthermore, researchers rarely depart from the largely Western belief that humans are autonomous beings with individual identities (Hutson 2009: 2). Ethnographies have opened doors to the archaeology of subjectification, or “the process of becoming, the process by which humans become intelligible people, accepted members of a society” and “what makes people different in terms of age, gender, ethnicity, and status” (Hutson 2009: 6–7). Recent forays into ancient Classic Maya body concepts can provide fruitful jumping off points for the study of Preclassic Maya subjectivities (see Houston, Stuart, and Taube 2006; Joyce 2000). The San Bartolo murals and other examples of artistic expression in the Preclassic period, to be discussed in subsequent chapters, have sparked investigations into the formation of Preclassic subjects. A stimulating lens through which to view the relationship between ancient sovereigns and subjects is the archaeology of performance. Beginning in the 1990s, researchers began to focus on the theatrical aspects of political ideology and incorporated studies of aesthetics, performance, and political spectacle (e.g., Demarest 1992; DeMarrais, Castillo, and Earle 1996). In the Maya area, the archaeology of performance was especially pertinent to the copious images and texts of Maya rulers shown in costumes performing rituals (Houston, Stuart, and Taube 2006; Inomata 2001, 2006a, 2006b; Inomata and Coben 2006a, 2006b; Lucero 2003). Public performances were “just as important as what takes place behind closed doors . . . but even decisions behind closed doors find public form in that they have to be carried out publicly by political officials and they depend on the obedience (or disobedience) of commoners” (Foias 2013: 37). The time is right to reexamine performance of authority and subjectivity in the Preclassic period and the origins of Maya politics. Unfortunately, the bottom line is that archaeologists do not have enough evidence about the institutions in the Preclassic period to talk about politics as traditionally conceived. So the perspective I adopt here is that the concepts of mythological and terrestrial power present in the Mesoamerica were but one group among

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a suite of organizational options for the Preclassic Maya (Fowles 2002: 17; Scott 2009: 8–9). The word “option” in this sense does not necessarily mean that early Maya communities presented themselves with a conscious choice of which type of governance or religious devotion to pursue at any given moment. But based on evidence of the antiquity of autochthonous Maya agricultural communities, it is possible that a tradition of sovereign authority existed, if on a smaller scale, at the same time as incipient centers, such as those in the “Olmec” heartland. In other words, there were preconditions of institutional practice in the Maya Lowlands that perhaps encouraged the easy adoption of political metaphors and concomitant architectural traditions from other places. Once these symbols developed as a focus of household and collective ritual activity, people began to gather and imbue a place with wider spheres of cosmological beliefs but with a decidedly local flavor. When faced with many potential pathways of governance because of increased interaction with other regions, some Maya Lowland communities made decisions constrained by prior generational knowledge. I would argue that these constraints predetermined decisions that resulted in material remains we now recognize as “Maya,” that is, perhaps nonroyal or even nonmonumental in the beginning. SOCIAL TRANSFORMATIONS: GATHERING, MONUMENTALIZATION, AND ABANDONMENT AS RESILIENCE

At its very core, this book presents a narrative of Preclassic Maya Lowland social transformations. Presently I focus on time periods that, according to material and architectural evidence, are crucial to narrating the history of the Preclassic Maya. Chapters examine major social change from the three different scales outlined earlier – settlement and feature distribution, architectural language, and materiality. Chapter 2 introduces the temporal and cultural setting of the case study. Chapter 3 then reviews the anthropological perspectives on the interrelationships between monumentality, identity, and politics. The earliest incontrovertible evidence of a Maya identity in Lowland communities comes from the early Middle Preclassic period (ca. 1000–700 BC), when residents constructed community centers with gathering spaces of similar dimensions and building configurations. What was the impulse for early agricultural settlers in the Maya Lowlands to begin to construct permanent gathering spaces after 1000 BC? There are several possible interpretations of the available evidence. There is a clear and yet unexplained correlation between pre- and post-1000 BC long-distance trade among Maya Lowland peoples, and I suspect that the unprecedented activity surrounding the Gulf Coast center of San Lorenzo played a role. Before the cessation of

SOCIAL T RANSFORMAT IONS

monumental building at San Lorenzo, materials reached the far corners of Mesoamerica, with the notable exception of the Maya Lowlands. However, once the center at San Lorenzo fell into disuse by the local peoples, long-distance goods consistently began appearing in Maya deposits. A reassessment of the early Middle Preclassic period suggests new interpretations of the origins of Maya civilization. Between about 700 and 300 BC, denizens of Lowland settlements shared local traditions of architectural and material production, presumably through a similar language and symbolic inventory. Chapter 4 considers these gathering spaces, the Preclassic plazas in so-called E-Groups, a jumping off point for understanding the origins of Maya politics. E-Groups exhibit similar features and orientation, all arranged around a rectangular plaza that served as a defined level space. The primary buildings include a large square-based pyramid on the western side of the plaza, usually “radial” or with staircases on each face. East of the pyramid lies a long, narrow platform with the longer axis running north to south. With these plazas, it is possible that peoples across the Lowlands consciously connected or made a political statement to each other. They clearly shared something, visible in common social trajectories, but marked with a spatial separation that suggests political autonomy. A presumed autonomy necessarily leads to an exploration of early political authority. This part of the Middle Preclassic period saw the beginning of monumental projects that reflect shared social and cultural needs outside the immediate community. Following their establishment, these spaces mediated peoples’ bonds to landscape and materials. Over time, between about 300 and 1 BC, early leaders increased the scale of buildings in and around the E-Groups, presumably a symptom of (or strategy as a means to) the establishment of a sovereign political authority. Chapter 5 demonstrates that monumentalizing big ideas in the art and architecture of the Late Preclassic period served to reinforce the power of leaders along with political performance. The creation and renovation of monumental structures and commission of elaborate artistic representations of mythic narratives cemented dynastic families as the primary authorities in communities across the Lowlands at the time. Archaeology of early Maya monumentality thus concerns itself with the roles of agriculture productivity, social gathering, and mythicoreligious beliefs that ruling elites coopted as sources of dynastic power. At the end of the Late Preclassic period (ca. AD 1–250), certain sites in the southern Maya Lowlands experienced measurable demographic and material changes, described in detail in Chapter 6. In the most dramatic cases, people ceased building big buildings, after many generations of constructing and renovating some of the largest known structures in the Maya world. Specific changes in architectural practice may be proxies for the cessation of certain

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political practices or institutional transformations. Such an institutional “collapse” may be intimately linked with environmental change or a combination of overlapping factors. However, it is clear that in the Maya case, core social behaviors and beliefs persisted as people adapted to new political and environmental circumstances. Therefore, I aim to reframe the debate about the end of the Preclassic period to consider abandonment and migration not consequences of desperation in the face of external pressures but strategies to maintain some semblances of tradition amidst a shifting environmental and political landscape.

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he preclassic period falls into the temporal category of “Formative,” as archaeologists defined it in the mid-twentieth century. The Formative period was when agriculture, sedentary settlements, ceremonial and mortuary practices, and technological elaboration coalesced along with the “‘formation’ of the American village-agricultural pattern,” which was “‘formational’ to later and more advanced developments” (Willey and Phillips 1955: 728–9). In the case of the Maya area, a region bound by a family of common languages, the Classic-period marks the time with the most textual documentation and largest populations (Houston and Inomata 2009: 17). In addition to more texts and a demographic peak, the Classic-period also marks the spread of polychrome pottery, complex palace structures, a prestige language, and other material markers of a Classic elite culture. By definition, then, the Preclassic Maya are the Maya before the Classicperiod. Recent research, however, has eroded away the evolutionary intellectual implications of “formative” concepts among the Preclassic Maya. A general consensus exists that during the first millennium BC, peoples across the Maya Lowlands shared a cultural inventory that included language, monumental architecture, aesthetic and artistic canons, and material technologies. In the last quarter century, the Preclassic Maya Lowlands (ca. 2000 BC–AD 250) have received attention as never before. Archaeological projects reached a consensus on a timeline for the beginnings of village life and ceramic production (1000–800 BC), the first construction 15

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of monumental architecture (800–600 BC), and the earliest expressions of language and meaning through complex hieroglyphic writing and mural painting (300–100 BC). It is now clear that significant cultural changes occurred during the Preclassic period, culminating in a high degree of social complexity and organization of labor and landscape. PRECLASSIC CULTURAL TRADITIONS

Despite the challenges discussed in Chapter 1, it bears mention that Preclassic materials are seemingly everywhere Maya sites are found. One useful question to pose is, Where is there not Preclassic material? Most of the major Classicperiod kingdoms, such as those outlined in Martin and Grube (2008), owe their geographic location to decisions made by settlers in the Middle Preclassic period, 1,000 years prior to the well-known royal courts. However, the Preclassic residents of many well-known Classic kingdoms, such as Palenque and Copan, may not have engaged in major monumental building, as noted at many other sites. It is clear that in sharp contrast to the preceramic or early Preclassic, during the early Middle Preclassic, populations cooperated on building projects, created and used trade networks, and interacted with others through political means. Prior investigations into Middle and Late Preclassic Maya have tended to address the roots of Classic institutions. Because of extensive projects in the Lowlands, we now have enough evidence to broaden the inquiry into the daily lives of people around Preclassic Maya settlements. Here I focus on the material remains (i.e., artifacts and architecture) that indicate the nature of the Preclassic landscape as it pertains to emerging complexity. For clarity, I outline five distinct Lowland Maya cultural traditions during the Preclassic period (Figure 2.1): 1. 2. 3. 4. 5.

Coastal Belize and river valleys Honduras Pasion–San Pedro Martír–Usumacinta drainage Northern Lowlands Central Lowlands

The fertile river valleys of coastal Belize were the homes for many preColumbian peoples, living in small villages and engaging in agricultural techniques such as raised-field agriculture. Continuous occupation from archaic times to the present makes Belize an ideal locus for diachronic research, and Belize is the setting of many archaeological and environmental studies. In modern-day Honduras, early monumental architecture and distinct material traditions throughout the pre-Hispanic era suggest to modern researchers that these peoples did not identify with the Maya; in

PRECLASSIC CULTURAL T RADI TIONS

2.1. Map of Maya Lowlands with regional cultural traditions.

fact, they often actively distinguished themselves from Maya neighbors. In the drainages that lead from western Guatemala to the deltas of Tabasco, concentrations of populations lived in the Preclassic with strong connections to Gulf Coast traditions. They come into play when discussing recent research at Ceibal, which lies in the transitional zone to the west of the Central Lowlands. Finally, the Northern Lowlands are characterized by

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very different environmental and landscape conditions, such as a reliance on groundwater storage rather than seasonal water bodies and very different architectural practices in the Preclassic. The differences between these cultural traditions are borne out from material and architectural evidence (cf. Adams and Culbert 1977: fig. 1.1). While these traditions do tend to have geographic “hubs,” the settlements often transcend regional boundaries, suggesting that certain groups found it desirable to adopt practices similar to others who were not necessarily their neighbors. Of special importance is the Central Lowlands tradition, notable in its radically increased scale in architecture compared with other cultural traditions in the Preclassic Maya Lowlands. CENTRAL LOWLANDS

I focus presently on the Central Lowlands’ cultural tradition, located in the area of upland karst hills interspersed with seasonally flooded bajos between the Petén Itza fracture zone to the north of Campeche and west from the San Pedro Mártir Valley to the Three Rivers drainage and parts of the Maya Mountains (Figure 2.2). Defining features of sites in this group include the ubiquitous similar ceramic production spheres, Middle Preclassic civic centers with large plazas and buildings in E-Group patterns, Late Preclassic monumental sculpture and Triadic Groups, and evidence of agricultural activities largely dependent on bajos or seasonal wetlands, with the exception of a few river or large lake sites. As many scholars note, the concentration of early large settlements in the Central Lowlands is indicative of a unique social development (Houston and Inomata 2009: 80; see Hansen 2000). There is indeed a scalar difference between monumentality in the Central Lowlands’ tradition and other cultural trajectories of the Maya Lowlands during the Preclassic. Scale is crucial because the consistency of outsized scale found in the architectural and artistic traditions of the Central Lowlands sites deserves attention as a marker of different cultural behaviors. Some sites may fit in with the Central Lowlands’ tradition but lie outside the proposed zone, although modern nation-state boundaries rather than ancient social interactions have sometimes precluded their inclusion to comparisons with activities in the core area. Lamanai, for instance, lies more toward coastal Belize but shows architectural similarities with the group of the Central Lowlands, suggesting that it might have shared more cultural traditions with sites in eastern Petén or southern Campeche. There is ample evidence that Lamanai had explosive monumental growth in the Late Preclassic (Pendergast 1981); however, there have been few extensive excavations in Middle Preclassic building phases.

PETÉ N LA KE S AN D EA S T WAR D

2.2. Detail map of Central Lowlands’ cultural tradition sites.

PETÉN LAKES AND EASTWARD

The area around Lake Petén Itza has been continuously occupied from the preceramic period until the present. The earliest occupations are only evident in maize pollen from cores taken at Lake Salpeten (Rosenmeier et al. 2002). Unfortunately, the occupation of the Middle Preclassic has been highly damaged or destroyed by later and modern settlements. Work by the Motul

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de San Jose Project has located one of the presumably many Middle Preclassic sites around the lake, Buenavista–Nuevo San José (Castellanos Cabrera 2008). Another large site with evidence of a Middle and Late Preclassic occupation is Cenote, located on the southern shore of the lake. There Arlen Chase has identified an E-Group plaza typical of the area, possibly constructed in the Middle Preclassic period (Chase 1983; Chase and Chase 1995). Tayasal, a large site on the shore of the lake, also produced ceramics from possibly as early as 900 BC (Chase 1983: 76). The recently explored large site of Nichtun-Ch’ich’, although heavily occupied in the Postclassic period, has large Middle Preclassic foundational platforms (Rice 2009). Southeast of the lake, many sites have been investigated by the Atlas Arqueológico under the direction of Juan Pedro Laporte, and several have evidence of Preclassic occupation. Notable sites with E-Group plazas include Ixkun, Ixtonton, Ixek, Xaan, El Rosario (I), Sukche, and Tesik (Laporte 1996, 2001). More information on the Preclassic period is available from the area around Lake Yaxha, with sites including Nakum, Yaxha, Naranjo, and the nearby sprawling site of Caracol. It is clear from Classic-period texts that these four sites were intertwined in political relationships, including alliances and conflicts (Martin and Grube 2008). The architectural foundations of the comparable Classic royal courts in these cities are all probably Middle Preclassic, with large expansions of architecture and settlement in the Late Preclassic period. Recent excavations in the acropolis and northern sector at Nakum have uncovered Middle Preclassic ceramics, although architectural remains have not been identified (Quintana and Wurster 2002; Zralka 2008: 31; Zralka and Hermes 2012). Middle Preclassic settlement was identified at Yaxha by Don Rice and subsequently confirmed by archaeological research in the vicinity of Lake Yaxha (Fialko 2000; Quintana Samayoa 2007; Quintana Samayoa, Wurster, and Hermes 2000; Rice 1976). In the process of restoring the large acropolis at Yaxha, the project encountered Middle and Late Preclassic architecture, including modeled stucco from the Late Preclassic period (Quintana Samayoa 2007). Future investigations at Yaxha will clarify the extent of Middle Preclassic occupation at the site center and its relationship to the identified settlements around the lake. The existence of two E-Group plaza spaces is curious, and the chronology of the site perhaps mirrors that of other centers with Middle Preclassic plaza spaces (Doyle 2012). The nearby center of Holtun also has the potential to refine the Preclassic chronology in the area because it seems to have little Classic-period overburden obscuring the Preclassic constructions (Kovacevich 2010; Kovacevich et al. 2012). The impressive sites of Naranjo and Caracol are perhaps best known for their intense Classic-period conflicts, perhaps at the hands of more powerful rulers at the superpowers of Calakmul and Tikal (Martin and Grube 2008). These two

PETÉ N LA KE S AN D EA S T WAR D

large, neighboring cities had clearly become major centers by the Late Preclassic period, possibly even earlier. At Naranjo, investigations have indicated that the great plaza at the site, an E-Group, was constructed in the Middle Preclassic period (Fialko 2000, 2004a: 180, 2004b; Gámez 2005: 229; Quintana Samayoa 2008; Quintana Samayoa and Wurster 2004). Future work will perhaps recover further evidence of the Late Preclassic (or earlier) architecture, but challenges such as the considerable Classic overburden and encroaching modern settlements have impeded investigations to date. The site of Caracol has been investigated since the early 1980s by Arlen and Diane Chase and has considerable evidence of Middle Preclassic beginnings and Late Preclassic fluorescence (Chase 1998: 33; Chase and Chase 1995, 2005: 20–1, 2006, 2007: 60). The Chases report that materials in the epicenter are Late Preclassic, with little evidence of Middle Preclassic occupation; however, outlying residential groups recovered earlier Middle Preclassic remains (Chase and Chase 2006). It is tempting to speculate that the Preclassic community at Caracol was culturally connected to other places such as Naranjo and Yaxha due to architectural similarities, but more excavations are necessary to make this determination. Recent implementation of a LiDAR survey will lead the way to regional-level studies of the Preclassic Lowlands (Chase et al. 2011). Down the Holmul River from Nakum lies a group of recently investigated sites that show strong evidence of widespread Middle and Late Preclassic occupation. The site of Holmul was perhaps the first stratigraphically excavated site where the excavators detected a sequence of ceramics that predated the Classic-period (Merwin and Vaillant 1932; Vaillant 1927). Subsequent projects have extended the Preclassic sequence of Holmul as well as identified other Preclassic centers, such as Cival, K’o, and others. The site of Holmul itself has early Middle Preclassic ceramics, of pre-Mamom types similar to those from the Belize Valley and Tikal, as well as Middle and Late Preclassic ceremonial architecture with elaborate stucco sculpture (Estrada-Belli 2011). The extraordinary finds at the site of Cival have contributed greatly to the archaeological understanding of the Middle and Late Preclassic periods (Estrada-Belli 2006, 2011). The residents of the Cival E-Group conducted a large dedicatory ritual that involved a cache offering of greenstone axes and ceramic vessels in a cruciform pattern directly on the east-west axis of the group (Estrada-Belli 2006). A stone monument and large stucco masks and mural painting from the Late Preclassic period mark Cival as an important place for many generations, probably the location of an incipient royal court. However, Cival, like many other sites of the Central Lowlands’ tradition, seemed to have been abandoned by the population after AD 100, and the Classic-period royal court shifted to the nearby site of Holmul (Estrada-Belli 2011).

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SOUTHERN PLATEAU BOUNDARY

The southern boundary of the Central Lowlands lies just north of the Petén Lakes area. Fortunately, the area was the focus of extensive excavations of Preclassic materials in the early and middle twentieth century, which allows for comparison across sites. Three main sites are the major centers of Preclassic communities perhaps as early as 900–800 BC: Uaxactun, Tikal, and San Bartolo. Other centers likely exist outside the known sites, subject to further reconnaissance in the area. The original Carnegie project at Uaxactun identified and described the sequence of Preclassic ceramics that subsequently provided the type-variety system as a guide for many projects (Smith 1955a, 1955b; Smith and Gifford 1966). Perhaps the most important contribution to Maya archaeology was the investigation of Uaxactun Group-E, which confirmed that massive architecture, with stucco sculpture, existed before the Classic-period (Ricketson 1928, 1933; Ricketson and Ricketson 1937). Subsequent projects at Uaxactun have expanded the knowledge of the large Preclassic settlement in the area (Kovac and Arredondo Leiva 2009; Laporte and Valdés 1993; Valdés, Fahsen, and Escobedo 1999). Early architecture and elaborate monumental sculpture from Uaxactun also contribute greatly to the understanding of Preclassic society. Although Uaxactun attracted initial attention in the search for early materials due to early monumental dates, it soon proved to be neighboring Tikal that yielded the earliest known materials in the area. The Tikal project by the University of Pennsylvania produced perhaps the most extensive and complete record of the Preclassic, including a highly stratified Preclassic architectural sequence with radiocarbon anchors (Coe 1962, 1965, 1990). The ceramics from the North Acropolis provided firm divisions within the Preclassic spheres set out at Uaxactun (Culbert 1993, 1999). Survey around Tikal also showed settlement growth during the Late Preclassic period (Puleston 1973, 1983). Burials and caches from the Preclassic period, especially the Late Preclassic, show continuity with later settlement that suggests cultural connections that lasted until the founding of the dynasty at Tikal (Krejci and Culbert 1995). Burial 85 could perhaps be the tomb of the founder, dating to approximately AD 100. Guatemalan archaeologists resumed the work at Tikal during the early 1980s with the Proyecto Nacional Tikal, focusing on the Mundo Perdido group and other major groups in the southwestern portion of the site. Most notably, analysis by Laporte and Fialko (1995) of the materials further refined the ceramic complexes as determined by Culbert (1993). It became clear from the Proyecto Nacional Tikal work that the Mundo Perdido was an early focus of gathering, ritual, and construction at Tikal, and the North Acropolis perhaps

EL MIRADOR AREA

developed as a focus of ritual in the Late Preclassic as Tikal’s emerging elite expanded. Tikal’s early E-Group civic center, extensive monumental architecture, and distinct lack of abandonment in the Late Preclassic form a large body of the comparative and contrastive work in this study. San Bartolo, discovered in 2001 in the westernmost area of the Three Rivers drainage by a team led by William Saturno, lies to the northeast of Uaxactun in the eastern reaches of the southern plateau boundary. Since its discovery, it has become one of the most important sites of research on the Preclassic period, with extensive Middle and Late Preclassic occupation, including the finest examples of Preclassic mural painting known to date and the earliest Maya writing in the Lowlands. San Bartolo, a modestly sized site, also confirmed that the Classic-period practices of hereditary kingship were present at many more Late Preclassic centers than previously thought (Saturno et al. 2006; cf. Freidel and Schele 1988). A royal burial (Saturno 2006) and the existence of a possible royal palace in the Late Preclassic (Runggaldier 2009) both support the argument for localized dynastic kingship at San Bartolo. In 2008, excavations uncovered a Middle Preclassic E-Group, albeit of a smaller scale than found in other study sites, composed of the Hunahpu and Ixbalanque structures (Hurst 2009; Saturno and Rossi n.d.; Urquizú and Saturno 2008). EL MIRADOR AREA

On December 7, 1930, P. C. Madeira of the University of Pennsylvania completed a flight from Ciudad del Carmen, Campeche, México, to Belize (British Honduras) and performed aerial reconnaissance of Maya sites in southern Mexico and northern Guatemala (Madeira 1931; Morley 1938: 102). One of the large sites visible by plane in the northern state of Petén was El Mirador, which had been visited previously by a chicle company in 1926 and later by the 16th Carnegie Institution Central American Expedition (Ruppert and Denison 1943: 49). The site remained unexplored until Ian Graham visited in 1962 and produced the first map of the site center, “one of the largest ceremonial centers in the Maya area” that “has the most massive structures” (Graham 1967: 46–7). Graham noted the location of causeways linking sites with “distinctive architecture” and a “near-absence of stelae” (Graham 1967: 47). Since Graham’s initial visit, archaeological research has demonstrated that the sites around El Mirador contain some of the largest settlements of the Late Preclassic (ca. 300 BC–AD 250) Maya Lowlands. Clearly, based on scale alone, El Mirador can be seen as a primus inter pares of Late Preclassic capitals. Of special interest is the Middle Preclassic time period in the site core and the political relationship of El Mirador with the surrounding sites in the area (cf. Marcus 2012). These include Wakna, Tintal, Xulnal, and many others. The most

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extensive evidence of early occupation around El Mirador comes from the neighboring site of Nakbe. The ceramics are confirmed to be after 700 BC, and architectural remains indicate that residents constructed platforms with stone walls in the early Middle Preclassic (Forsyth 2007; Hansen 1998). The E-Group at Nakbe was enlarged in the Middle Preclassic and perhaps was in use during the Late Preclassic (Hansen 1998). On the modern Mexican side of the Mirador uplands, the Classic-period behemoth Calakmul shows ample evidence of a sophisticated Preclassic occupation as well (Carrasco Vargas 1999, 2003; Delvendahl 2008; Domínguez Carrasco 1994: 301). In addition to recently mapped sites in the Guatemalan El Mirador area, newly relocated and discovered sites in southeastern Campeche, such as Yaxnohcah and Mucaancah, also show formal and chronological similarities to other Central Lowlands sites (Reese-Taylor and Anaya Hernández 2013; Šprajc 2002, 2006, 2012). EL PALMAR, GUATEMALA: CASE STUDY

My own perspective on the Preclassic Maya is informed by original fieldwork at the site of El Palmar, Guatemala (Figure 2.3). El Palmar lies on the edge of a large laguna in the Buenavista valley, a southwest-to-northeast-running low-lying fault that stretches approximately 30 km east-west between the Classic-period sites of Tikal and El Zotz, with an average width of about 5 km. The valley forms a strategic intersection for east-west and north-south exchange corridors: (1) it connects the lowland wetlands of the northwest Petén department of Guatemala that drain through the San Pedro Martir River system eventually to the Gulf of Campeche with the lowlands that drain northeastward through Rio Azul to the Caribbean Sea, and (2) it forms the southern limit of the Central Lowlands, just north of the Petén Lakes area

2.3. Detail map of Buenavista Valley with sites mentioned in the text.

EL PALMAR, G UATEMALA: CASE STUDY

(Doyle et al. 2011, 2012). Today the valley lies within the boundaries of the Biotopo San Miguel La Palotada “El Zotz,” administered by the University of San Carlos of Guatemala’s Centro de Estudios Conservacionistas (CECON). A striking feature of the Buenavista Valley is a system of civales that contain water today, including the largest body of water visible from satellite imagery in the entire region, the Laguna El Palmar. The site of El Palmar is located on a low escarpment at the edge of the Laguna El Palmar. The Middle Preclassic (ca. 1000–300 BC) origins of El Palmar mirror the development of other sites in the region, especially Tikal. The earliest known monumental construction at El Palmar is an E-Group that consists of pyramidal buildings and platforms arranged around a large rectangular plaza. During the Late Preclassic (ca. 300 BC–AD 250), the residents greatly enlarged the E-Group and constructed a large platform containing what is known as a Triadic Group, as well as other large residential platforms in the central precinct. During the early years of the Early Classic (ca. AD 300), the residents of El Palmar left a massive termination ritual deposit at a small temple, Structure F5-1, known to archaeologists as the “Templo de Agua,” for its unique location directly on the shore of the laguna. Shortly thereafter, the population completely abandoned the site. The main driving question behind research at El Palmar is, Why did people undertake massive building projects in certain places, and at certain points in history, but not in others? The size of the architecture at El Palmar, the location near other well-excavated sites, and its location along the shores of a water source rife with opportunity to study the ancient environment all mark the site as an important place for contribution to the larger Preclassic picture. The fieldwork did not uncover enough information to allow speculation about the identities of the residents of El Palmar or a reliable figure of how many people lived near the laguna and contributed to the monumental building projects. But the chapters that follow draw tenable conclusions from available comparative data and begin to create the history of Preclassic places and peoples.

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MESOAMERICAN AND MAYA MONUMENTALITY, IDENTITY, AND POLITICS

A

cross the ancient world, at various points in history, and for a variety of motivations, people cooperated to construct monumental buildings and spaces. This shared human experience of building big implies inevitability: Were big things simply the result of accretions of daily life in settled communities? More likely, historically particular circumstances inspired or perhaps even pushed societies to invest in cooperative work. I aim to understand such monumental building projects in the context of the origins of political institutions to address why people built big things and how these projects led to institutionalized power and what we call “cities.” Traditionally, scholars have focused on monumentality as either cooperative, indicative of coalescing community identity, or coercive, clearly made with an authority organizing labor and resources. Here I argue that monumental works represent the manifestations of early institutions within frameworks of everyday power relations, at the intersection between cooperative and coercive social forces. In this dual interpretive context, the Preclassic Maya deserve renewed attention in such discussions of monumentality and emerging complex polities because there is evidence of both community cooperation and perhaps an individual or group in charge. The earliest evidence of a social monumentality in the Americas is difficult to pinpoint. From Chile to Louisiana, peoples independently engaged in building large-scale spaces and structures at times of varying antiquity. Structures and patios in the Supe Valley, Peru, demonstrate that the communal value of 26

THE A RCHAEOLOGY OF MONUMENTALITY

gathering spaces and auspicious structures has a deep history in the Amerindian tradition, comparable to precocious developments in the Near East (Shady Solis and Kleihege 2008). By 1000 BC, groups across Mesoamerica had experimented with various techniques of monumental construction or artwork, such as earthen pyramidal platforms and monolithic sculpture. The Early Preclassic peoples responsible for the largest and most elaborate architecture and sculpture are those living in and around the center of San Lorenzo Tenochtitlan, located in the region that the Aztecs called “Olman.” Recent research sheds light on the legacy of the “Olmec” peoples on the development Preclassic Maya materials and identity. THE ARCHAEOLOGY OF MONUMENTALITY

Since the earliest comparative studies of global ancient civilizations, the presence of monumental buildings has consistently been a marker of complexity. In the twentieth century, complexity had both local-spatial and macropolitical dimensions. That is, materials on the ground could suggest a complex settlement in one place or a complex political order among a network of settlements. These two dimensions of complexity manifested in political anthropology and archaeology as rigorous studies of “cities” and “states,” along with their commensurate criteria and typologies. Early exploits were perhaps operated with a certain romantic subjectivism, or a fascination with artifacts and abandonment “rooted in an understanding of a collective spirit or genius” (Smith 2003: 59), or the Enlightenment belief in the equation of complexity with progress (Chapman 2003: 5). Although monumental architecture is recognizable to most, it eludes a precise definition. Several commonalities have come about from crosscultural studies of monumentality: that the builders’ use of size, scale, and durability was usually intended to elicit feelings of awe, often commemorating individual or collective actions or even supernatural forces. At their core, monumental buildings and spaces are built beyond the size and scale required for practical daily use (Trigger 1990, 2004). Furthermore, monumental builders probably made conscious choices to differentiate their built environment from others without monumental architecture (Rosenswig and Burger 2012: 15). This is not to say that architectural elaboration is cross-culturally uniform in meaning, as most studies point to an emphasis on historical particular social memory and value within a given context (Burger and Rosenswig 2012; Marcus 2000). Materials that archaeologists interpret as monumental are typically located in culturally important places and constructed with significant human energy by either a practiced specialist or a large number of people (Trigger 1990: 21; Willey 1962: 1–2). The energy and resource investment “bespeaks a desire to

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transform the landscape, to engineer a cultural topography that radically altered living space” (McAnany 2010: 145). The “desire,” then, could stem from a collective bond through kinship or shared identity beyond the kin group such as a “moral community” (Houston and Inomata 2009: 36). Monumental buildings and spaces garnered a sense of belonging, eliciting “affective responses that galvanize memories and emotions central to the experience of political belonging” (Smith 2003: 8). In other words, archaeologists consider that monumentality stems from a common identity shared among a group of people. In addition to group identity, many have stressed the importance of elite legitimation and expression of political authority as motivations for building early monumental centers (McAnany 2010: 155–6). As Ringle (1999: 187) succinctly noted, though, “it seems improbable that Formative elites could somehow hoodwink an entire populace into building massive reminders of their humble station in life . . . monumental construction expressed aspects of communal life that were of deepest importance.” Several scholars have also pointed out that the increase in scale is not necessarily commensurate with an increase in political power and that circular reasoning develops when attempting to explain building projects with certain social organizations (e.g., Marcus 2003: 116; Rosenswig and Burger 2012: 4). As such, archaeologists should not always consider the drive to increase in scale as a given desire to impress by a ruling elite, nor should they consider that monumental building spaces necessarily mean a certain level of political organization. MESOAMERICAN MONUMENTALITY AND KINGSHIP

Mesoamerica is one of the independent places in the ancient world where early cultures expressed shared identities in collective actions and/or projects directed by a sovereign authority. The earliest major monumental architecture and sculpture are from the “Olmec” site San Lorenzo, Veracruz, Mexico. Monumental architecture at San Lorenzo takes the form of giant earthen platforms, most dating to the years 1200–800 BC (Coe and Diehl 1980; Cyphers 2004; Pool 2007). Although not exclusive to San Lorenzo, nor to the “Olmec” heartland, the earthen platforms at San Lorenzo are unprecedented in their scale (see Joyce 2004). “Olmec” sculpture is notoriously difficult to date, though it seems that residents of San Lorenzo produced massive basalt monuments concurrent with the coalescence of San Lorenzo as a ceremonial center. The most memorable sculptures from the San Lorenzo period are the monumental disembodied heads created from basalt carried from far away in the Tuxtla Mountains. These naturalistic portrait carvings show individual physical characteristics and different costuming in the form of headgear.

MESOAMERICAN M ONUMENTALIT Y A ND KI NGSHIP

Scholars interpret them as representations of early rulers, the headdresses signifying a name or affiliation (Fields and Berrin 2010). San Lorenzo period basalt sculptures, along with ceramic containers and votive objects, have shown up in locations far from the center itself. This evidence sparked several debates about the status of San Lorenzo as the first state in Mesoamerica and its influence on the cultural development of other hierarchical societies, both in Highland Mexico and in the Maya Lowlands (Pool 2007: 11–31). Fairly recently, scholars have continued to disagree on the “Olmec” influence on the Maya (Clark and Hansen 2001; Hansen 2005). Clark (in Clark and Hansen 2001) has proposed that the Maya learned kingship from the “Olmec,” as proven by the adoption of architectural and material practices. However, there remains “no clear evidence that the Gulf Coast Olmec migrated into or controlled the Maya lowlands” despite years of investigations into the trappings of civilization (Houston and Inomata 2009: 86; see also Lohse 2010). This material evidence is curious, given the use of ceramics as early as 1800–1600 BC in some parts of Mesoamerica and especially given the rapid growth of San Lorenzo on the Gulf Coast. Prior researchers have concluded that the vast material differences between the Maya Lowland groups and nearby cultures indicates that populations in the lowlands were small and not interacting with the San Lorenzo “Olmec” at the frequency of other regions such as Oaxaca and Highland Mexico (Houston and Inomata 2009: 83–6; Pool 2007: fig. 6.10). Paleoenvironmental studies have barely begun to augment our understanding of how and where maize-farming peoples lived prior to 1000 BC, although little artifactual evidence remains of these first Maya Lowland settlements. The appearance of long-distance trade goods, such as greenstone, obsidian, and marine shells, does not signal the invention of a new society. Although a plausible interpretation is that new materials created new forms of social inequality, it is also possible that the early Maya participation in long-distance trade with other areas only placed value on new materials to reinforce preexisting power relationships. Evidence of such pretrade relationships could come from investigations into hierarchies of accumulation (Paynter 1989: 382), perhaps of locally produced chert tools, perishable goods, and uneven distribution of architectural materials. Until large-scale efforts to investigate the early Maya begin, the dynamics of Preclassic inequality remain in the realm of speculation. The most compelling arguments about the relationship between the peoples of the “Olmec” heartland and the Maya Lowlands between 1200 and 800 BC come from the excavations by Takeshi Inomata and team at Ceibal, Guatemala (Inomata et al. 2013, 2015b; Inomata, MacLellan, and Burham 2015a). Research at Ceibal concluded that between 1000 and 800 BC, the emerging ceremonial centers had cultural connections to contemporaneous centers in the

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modern state of Chiapas, Mexico. This interaction between peoples in the Maya Lowlands and peoples living further west may have influenced the development of monumental building programs after 800 BC in the Maya region. The residents at Chiapas centers and Ceibal had constructed plazas and buildings with a similar spatial arrangement by 700 BC. The residents of Ceibal maintained this arrangement after 700 BC, and early centers throughout the Lowlands shared similar construction techniques and material culture during this time. Overall, it seems probable that interregional interaction between 1000 and 700 BC played a large role in the growth of Maya centers, but the influence was not one directional as the Maya selectively engaged with materials and ideas from the Gulf Coast and other cultures. Additionally, the conceptual domination of kingship as the institution of Preclassic political authority has often hindered examination of other forms of politics, especially in the Early and Middle Preclassic. Hereditary kingship is well documented for the Classic-period Maya but not well understood earlier than the first century AD. The understanding of kingship in the Classic Maya centers around the hieroglyphic term ajaw, translated as “lord,” which functions at once as the basic kingly or queenly title and the final day of the twenty-day ritual calendar. Epigraphers and linguists have suggested that the word ajaw might have its roots in the word for “a being connected with shouting” (Houston and Inomata 2009: 131). The earliest known use of the term ajaw comes from a text at the site of San Bartolo from the third century BC (Saturno et al. 2006: 1282). Before this textual evidence, little is known about the lords and ladies of Preclassic society. An important difference between the Preclassic ajaw and the Classic lord is that only in the mid-first millennium AD did the scribes begin to describe lords as k’uhul ajaw, or “holy lord.” Classic ajaw titles also carry spatial and temporal dimensions, linking lords to places or time spans, as well as human dimensions, when describing lords as having taken a certain number of captives. However, until we have a larger corpus of texts from the Preclassic period, it will be difficult to link conceptual kingship with actual monumental building programs in the first millennium BC. MAYA MONUMENTALITY

As the following chapters show, the Preclassic Maya case illustrates that monumentality does not directly correlate with political complexity by charting the volume of constructions and spaces that far exceed “practical function” throughout time. In many cases, punctuated bursts of agglomerative building to define or redefine sacred precincts were bounded by long periods of use wear, during which the buildings and spaces were minimally modified. The actors behind these booms of monument building, and perhaps even of

MAYA INVISIBLE D WELLINGS A ND IN VISIBLE G ATHERINGS

active nonbuilding, engaged in planning and engineering that imply a logistical organization of landscape and labor. However, the relationship between organizer and organized is far from clear: Did the ancient planners and builders participate because they believed in the monumental cause, or did fear of intimidation and violence play a role in getting the work done? During the Late Preclassic period, the monumentalization of previously defined social spaces does not fall under the rubric of constructions of “unintended consequences” (Joyce 2004). The Preclassic Maya had already mastered masonry constructions and plaster, and “there is no question that the construction of artificial mountains in the center of Preclassic Maya communities changed the dynamics of power and social relations” (McAnany 2010: 142). Thus the Late Preclassic Maya were consciously building bigger buildings and spaces, some of which were the most massive constructions ever built in the area. Chapter 5 discusses independent evidence of rulers from excavations and materials, which suggests that an elite group or individual “organized the labor of others and depended on stable crop production to feed a subservient work force” (Rosenswig and Burger 2012: 7). At present, however, the exact relationship between builders and authorities remains unclear. Some have argued that using large stones and creating stucco facades necessarily indicates a desire for conspicuous consumption: The production of limestone stucco seems to have been deliberately costly and wasteful of resources; the stucco that was obtained was employed in an almost fickle form – or at least ostentatious – however, seen in another way, all these activities contributed to the communal splendor of the constructed buildings in these Maya Lowland cities. (Translated from Clark, Hansen, and Pérez Suárez 2000: 469–70)

Estrada-Belli (2011:131) disagrees, noting, “[W]hile the use of stone in the final period showed great expenditure by the leadership, the thickness of plaster floors was actually greater in the Middle Preclassic and it progressively diminished in the Late Preclassic.” Based on original research at El Palmar and comparative discussions of other central Lowland sites, I would agree that the relationship between increasing architectural scale and emerging political authority in the Late Preclassic is not clear. Thus, assigning values such as “costly” or “wasteful” to Late Preclassic stucco production in the context of rapid monumental expansion is premature based on current knowledge. MAYA INVISIBLE DWELLINGS AND INVISIBLE GATHERINGS

The search for the earliest settlements in the Maya Lowlands is ongoing and challenging. The preceramic, or Archaic, period in the Maya Lowlands is little

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researched and poorly understood, as is the Early Preclassic period (ca. 2000–1000 BC), because Maya Lowland communities did not construct archaeologically detectable structures until about 1000–700 BC (Awe et al. 1990; Estrada-Belli 2011; Garber et al. 2004; Hammond 1991a, 1991b; McAnany and López Varela 1999; Potter et al. 1984). Before this time, there is little evidence of earlier populations in the Lowlands, except from northern Belize, near the site of Colha (Iceland 2005; Lohse et al. 2006; Lohse 2010; Rosenswig 2004; Rosenswig and Masson 2001). The data show that there was a substantial population engaged in lithic production and intensive agriculture, with evidence of occupational continuity into the Middle Preclassic (Iceland 2005: 16). Still, a lacuna exists between the appearance of maize pollen and the first villages with detectable house platforms; thus it remains unclear how the environment, the introduction of maize, and population aggregation are related. The early settlers’ use of perishable construction materials would explain the intrusion of maize pollen and the lack of clear archaeological evidence of agriculturalists. Thus the pre–1000 BC Maya Lowlands were characterized by material practices that lent themselves to an impermanent, mobile lifeway, such as using perishable containers and producing tools from locally quarried stone. As argued by many (e.g., Lohse 2010), the Lowlands may have been much more populated than previously noted because of a lack of archaeologically detectable “civilizational” attributes. Populations were beginning to aggregate across the region but have gone yet undetected due to similarities in the preceramic and early Middle Preclassic lithic production techniques and Preclassic- and Classic-period architectural overburden. People lived in the area and grew maize near permanent water sources. Building on Lohse’s evidence, in this sense, one could argue that the peoples living in the Maya Lowlands desired to maintain their mobility and impermanence, considering the large collaborative building already occurring along the Gulf Coast. However, estimates of population or of the social systems of such mobile groups remain a challenge for future research. Current palynological data in the Maya Lowlands show that maize cultivation (and possibly associated forest clearing) may have occurred between 5100 and 4600 cal. yr. BP (Brenner et al. 2002; Deevey et al. 1979; Pohl et al. 1996; Leyden 1984; Wahl et al. 2006, 2007). Maize pollen intrusion and disturbance taxa indicating forest clearance do not appear widely in the geological record until after 1500–1000 BC and sharply increase after 400 BC (Beach et al. 2002, 2006, 2007, 2010; Dunning et al. 1998, 2002; Estrada-Belli and Wahl 2010; Rosenmeier et al. 2002). These studies indicate that in many places population gradually increased and reached high levels in the Late Preclassic period. Some geologic evidence suggests that long periods of dryness occurred at the end of the Preclassic period, although it is unclear

THE F IRST (DETECTABLE) SETTLEMENTS, 1 0 00 –7 0 0 B C

how widespread droughts may have been (Gill et al. 2007; Haug et al. 2003; Kennett et al. 2012). The consensus seems to be that by 1000 BC, the environmental milieu of the Maya Lowlands was prime for the agriculture of maize and other cultigens. THE FIRST (DETECTABLE) SETTLEMENTS: 1000–700 BC

To review, although the timing is unclear and variable between regions, the first evidence of sedentary villages in the Maya Lowlands with concomitant ceramics comes from the time between 1000 and 700 BC (Cheetham 2005; Cheetham, Forsyth, and Clark 2003; Clark and Cheetham 2002; Forsyth 1999, 2006; Inomata et al. 2013, 2015b). Settlement pattern studies have concluded that people at this time lived in small house clusters, often close to permanent water sources (either riverine or wetland), and did not engage in major landscape modification for construction purposes (Fialko 2000; Puleston 1973: 311; Rice 1976: 435; Ringle 1999: 189). It is unclear what prompted a widespread investment in permanence and durability, but perhaps improvements in maize farming made storage easier and mobility less necessary. The earliest Maya ceramics, although some might exhibit incised designs derivative of similar designs on pottery from other regions, were all locally produced and may even demonstrate regional differences, which remain to be adequately identified and analyzed (Ball and Taschek 2003; Cheetham 2005; Clark and Cheetham 2002). As Estrada-Belli (2011: 41) notes, the similarity in incised decorations suggests “the unlikelihood of these styles having been introduced to the Lowlands by a more developed group of migrants.” This echoes the sentiment of others, such as Lohse (2010: 315), that “some component of the earliest sedentary villagers in Belize and adjacent Petén were descended from preceramic populations.” Likely the early settlers knew of pottery or containers made from inorganic materials but opted to use vegetal containers before 1000 BC. Regardless of the origins of ceramic production, the perceived material desire for more durable containers and residential structures/spaces corresponds with evidence for shared ritual practice and craft specialization (Estrada-Belli 2011; Garber et al. 2004; Hammond 1991a, 1991b; Hansen 1998; Laporte and Fialko 1995). Burials from the early Middle Preclassic period reflect inherited social inequality, through the presence of imported items, such as jade, shells, and obsidian (e.g., Hammond, Clarke, and Robin 1991: 356–9; Hansen 2000: 63; Mata Amado and Hansen 1992; McAnany and López Varela 1999: 155). The introduction of long-distance trade items and ceramic production underscores that the early Middle Preclassic settlers began to invest

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more heavily in a place on the landscape. Perhaps several kin groups cooperated as communities, centered on a specific geographic area. Presumably, the communities began cooperating with neighbors through trade networks to obtain long-distance commodities (see Bartlett and McAnany 2000). Such cooperation could be the mechanism to explain shared customs and architectural conventions visible in the archaeological record. Most significantly, the material changes that occur in personal items seem to correspond to a major shift in residential constructions by 700 BC, “most notabl[y] the partial replacement of small perishable structures by permanent raised masonry or earthen house platforms” (Ringle 1999: 190). THE RISE OF RECTANGULARITY: 700–500 BC

The earliest detectable buildings, which appeared between roughly 1000 and 700 BC across the Maya Lowlands, were built on the ground surface with a perishable superstructure (Gerhardt and Hammond 1991: 99). Subsequent buildings took the form of apsidal, keyhole-shaped, or circular low platforms (Figure 3.1) with or without perishable superstructures (Aimers, Powis, and Awe 2000; Awe et al. 1990; Gerhardt and Hammond 1991; Hansen 1998; Inomata et al. 2013; Ricketson and Ricketson 1937). As described at Cuello, Belize, the low platforms included a retaining wall of limestone cobble and a core of small stones, sealed with a layer of limestone plaster (Gerhardt and Hammond 1991: 101–2). The introduction of stone-lined platforms and plaster floors is the earliest hint at an innovative Maya Lowland construction practice – evidence supporting the assertion that a common cultural bond existed between Lowland communities at least by 500 BC. (a)

(b) N

2m

3.1. Earliest Maya architecture. Examples of apsidal, keyhole-shaped, and circular low platforms: (a) reconstruction drawing of Structure 2/2nd, Zotz Group, Cahal Pech (redrawn after Aimers et al. 2000: fig. 5); (b) photograph of Cuello Structure 328 (redrawn after Gerhardt and Hammond 1991: plate 2).

T HE RI S E OF RE C T AN GU L A R I TY : 7 00 –5 0 0 B C

Buildings of this type exist at several sites in northern Belize (Garber et al. 2004; McAnany and López Varela 1999; Potter et al. 1984). The residents periodically renewed the platforms by covering them with new layers of plaster and building new superstructures. This activity often included burial of deceased family members below the floor (Krejci and Culbert 1995). Over time, both the platforms and the outdoor patios were repaved with plaster, thus sealing the previous occupation levels and raising the relative elevation of the building area. In subsequent phases, people invested more labor, including steps, moldings, and interior thresholds, eventually leading to solid retaining walls (Gerhardt and Hammond 1991: 102). Although excavations at El Palmar revealed no firm examples of architecture from this time, the existence of possible examples of pre-Mamom ceramics and preceramic/early Middle Preclassic lithic material suggests that such buildings lie under the site’s platforms. This shift to elaborate entrances and durable stone walls of residential platforms possibly signals the gradual development of Middle Preclassic Lowland civic building in the context of living space. In contrast, elsewhere in Mesoamerica, cultures concentrated civic buildings on large ceremonial earthen platforms (Joyce 2004: 10), such as in the Gulf Lowlands. Thus the Lowland Maya, before 500 BC, only intended to construct larger, more permanent residential structures and spaces, perhaps with the cooperation of unrelated people. It is debatable whether these early residential areas were monumental according to the current definition, as the perceived manipulation of scale would have only affected immediate inhabitants or visitors in this case. Regardless, the heavy investment in one place signifies the crystallization of a shared community life across the Lowlands. As settlements grew in the Middle Preclassic, populations began constructing rectangular structures rather than rounded or apsidal structures in both residential and civic contexts. At some places, populations constructed large plazas over the circular or apsidal platforms, especially noted at Uaxactun and Cahal Pech. A synthesis of work on round structures from the Middle Preclassic shows signs of dismantling and superimposition of rectilinear structures at Cahal Pech in later time periods (Aimers, Powis, and Awe 2000). These authors also argue that round structures were important platforms for performance and ancestor veneration and touch on the implications of the architectural transition from round to rectangular building forms (Aimers, Powis, and Awe 2000: 80–1). At Cuello, the transition from rounded or apsidal residential platforms also included the first superstructures with limestone walls (Gerhardt and Hammond 1991: 104). The appearance of rectangular platforms and pyramidal structures perhaps reflects social changes as a result of population growth at a local level (Flannery 1972: 39–40; 2002: 431). The point to emphasize here is that between 700 and 500 BC, buildings and preexisting social spaces became

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focuses of civic construction across the Lowlands for the first time (Inomata et al. 2013, 2015b). The fact that the civic construction techniques seem to be distinct from prior building traditions deserves renewed attention, especially at sites in the Central Lowlands tradition, where early architecture is often undetected due to heavy Classic-period overburden. CONCLUSIONS

Maya Lowland monumentality, although born from similar experimentation with more durable materials or heavier investments of labor, differed significantly from that in other areas of Mesoamerica. Rather than beginning with explosive episodes of earthen platform building, the Preclassic Maya excavated to bedrock and leveled spaces; they worked with limestone in various forms, from blocks, to chalky dust, to processed stucco; and they mimicked the design and construction of living spaces in monumental, nonresidential buildings and places. This important distinction underscores the vital role the Preclassic Maya case plays in the study of ancient monumentality vis-à-vis early politics and urbanism in Mesoamerica and in a global comparative sense. Monuments grew from cooperative building that drew inspiration from households and preexisting kin group practices. Furthermore, the fact that the Central Lowland Preclassic Maya seemed to have drawn from a similar inventory of monumental architecture and spaces across a wide geographic area and between seemingly unrelated groups of people draws our attention to these early spaces to understand who was in charge and why.

FOUR

MIDDLE PRECLASSIC MAYA E-GROUP PLAZAS Distribution and Geopolitics, 800–300 BC

W

hen i first stepped into one of the large plazas in the center of the site of Yaxha, Guatemala, I got an uncanny sense of déjà vu (Figure 4.1). I had seen the dimensions of the plaza and the arrangement of the buildings before, precisely while mapping and excavating the E-Group at El Palmar. The information about E-Groups and the similarities of the typological characteristics were well known. However, when I stood in the Yaxha plaza, I realized the experiential dimension of standing and observing similar things in two different places. Most likely if ancient Maya residents had traveled from one of these E-Groups to another, they would have known what these central plazas and associated buildings meant to their neighbors. They would have known what occurred there, what people were expected to perform, or how to behave. The E-Group communities shared the same concept of a central gathering space down to the very concrete details of building materials and techniques. Thus the significance of the building type extends beyond the perceived solar alignments of the buildings. Why did Middle Preclassic Maya communities choose to build, as a foundational act, the same arrangement of plazas in their centers? In other words, of all the possible choices for cooperative constructions, people constructed similar plazas surrounded by pyramidal platforms throughout a large area. In this chapter, I examine these common architectural groups through geospatial and materials analysis. Specifically, I argue that E-Groups signify the earliest polity formation in the Maya Lowlands as communities 37

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4.1. Plan of the E-Group plaza at Yaxha, Guatemala.

cooperated to create a conceptual and physical center, a point on the landscape for gathering that was distinct from that of other groups. E-Groups are the manifestation of a social map of the landscape as groups cemented their collective identities and spatial claims to political authority. In the absence of clear archaeological information of an institutional authority (i.e., kingship) in the Middle Preclassic Lowlands, E-Groups are perhaps the best lens through which to view the interplay between coalescing low-scale interest groups and emerging institutional inertia. Rather than framing the emergence of E-Group centers as sudden, I would like to pursue them as an archaeologically detectable space that was supplanting earlier forms of gathering as people interacted in their everyday lives. These first cooperative building projects were large spaces with modest boundaries, perhaps not monumental according to traditional definitions, considering the intent of the builders to create a sense of imposing power on the viewers through megascalar and highly durable constructions. In fact, such spaces and boundaries were expansions of preexisting residential patterns, places of residence, and agricultural spaces. This enlargement of an idealized living or working space could be considered monumentalization, but I emphasize here that the more important aspect is the togetherness engendered by the act of and results from construction. Perhaps more important, E-Group civic projects represent the ability of the builders and others to gather together in likely acts of political belonging, motivated by collective gathering rather than the acts of a few to impress the

EARLY MAYA CON STRUCT ION T ECHNIQUES

many. In Chapter 5, I will outline the difference created by the true monumentalization of these spaces, which focused more on imbuing structures and spaces with mythological and ideological imagery in order to reinforce the power of emerging dynastic rulers. During the Middle and Late Preclassic periods (ca. 1000 BC–AD 250), generations of residents at neighboring Maya Lowland communities, sometimes within sight of each other, centered themselves on large gathering spaces of similar dimensions and building configurations. Denizens of both places practiced local traditions of architectural and material production, perhaps subject to wider ideational trends, but shared over time through a similar language and symbolic inventory. Stark similarities within the patterns of construction of the main plazas in these communities raise important questions about the nature of building trends: Were grander designs at work, such as the replication of cosmic concepts as tangible and visible things, or did social reverberations through the movement of people incite collaboration or mimicry by the builders of each? EARLY MAYA CONSTRUCTION TECHNIQUES

The earliest works incorporated and mimicked the forms of earlier domestic architecture as Lowland Maya architecture developed into a discrete style with strong evidence of planning related to the cardinal directions. Preserved limestone stucco floors are a basic element, in fact, a hallmark of this time period. In many sites it appears that the thickness of the plaster floors was greatest in the earliest constructions and decreased over time (Estrada-Belli 2011: 131). The implications of early paving in residential and communal spaces are multiple. There are the obvious practical considerations of weathering and erosion prevention. However, thick paved floors also would have withstood the repeated stomping of groups of people over time.

Plaster How was Maya plaster produced? For floors, builders would lay a fill composed of crushed limestone and other inclusions, then cover that with a layer of limestone plaster made from burned lime, and often treat the surface of the plaster with a wash (Littmann 1962: 100). Recent chemical composition studies have further identified the specific limestone used, such as the dolomitic limestone bearing Tertiary fossils near Palenque (Riquelme et al. 2012). Furthermore, analysis from the site of Piedras Negras, Guatemala, shows that a single limestone source was used for specific buildings, with implications for schemes for organized labor to collect and process the plaster floors (Abrams et al. 2012).

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Floors are always utilitarian. However, the intense labor investment in ancient Maya floors suggests a deeper symbolic meaning in addition to the practical. We know that the Classic Maya valued things that were whitening, things that were shiny, and activities that differentiated the wild and untamed from the rectilinear and organized. By remaking the bedrock into sturdy spaces that were lived in and experienced by many people, Maya communities effectively civilized the natural landscape with plaster. This process took many people. Perhaps even the means – the gathering of the raw materials, the creating of the recipe, and the cooking of the ingredients – were part of the end. That is, people donating time and energy to create a space for extended groups to gather was meant to gather people and go through the process in addition to creating the product.

Linear Stone Walls The most well-preserved stonework exists at Nakbe, where residents built walls with “roughly hewn, flat stones stacked vertically in walls,” similar to finds at Uaxactun in Middle Preclassic platforms (Hansen 1998: 62). Platforms constructed in the late Middle Preclassic/early Late Preclassic tended to have large amounts of loosely organized rubble fill surfaced with plaster rather than stone masonry. Hansen (1998: 71) notes that one interpretation of the enlarged platforms could be the administration of a quarry system by construction specialists by the end of the late Middle Preclassic. An aesthetic innovation in Middle Preclassic buildings that deserves attention is that of inset corners, in which builders did not join two perpendicular sides of a building at a plain corner but rather one that was set back from the intersection point. In plan view, this creates a cruciform shape; ostensibly, one of the major goals of inset corners was to break up the square plan and highlight the intercardinal points. The implications of such a widespread technique are that Maya communities valued the solar movements and encoded the sun-based directions in their buildings. Even if the rectilinear axes of a building were not aligned directly with the cardinal directions, one can assume that inset corners referenced the diagonals in the same way.

Decoration Middle Preclassic architecture largely contains no surface decoration. The discovery of the Hunahpu/Ixbalanque structures at San Bartolo could signify some of the earliest examples of monumental sculpture in the Lowlands, perhaps from the late Middle Preclassic or early Late Preclassic (Saturno and Rossi n.d.). These structures form an early E-Group, but the scale and construction are seemingly different from contemporaneous examples, perhaps a consequence of

EARLY MAYA CON STRUCT ION T ECHNIQUES

(a)

(b)

.1m

.5m

(c)

.5m

4.2. Early examples of stucco modeling, Hunahpu structure, San Bartolo: (a) redrawn by the author after sketch by Hurst in Beltran 2008: 56; (b) after drawing by Hurst in Beltran 2008: 57; (c) redrawn by the author after sketch by Hurst in Beltran 2008: 58.

its early date. As Hurst (2009: 39–40) notes, “The Hunahpú radial pyramid of Sub-V had two terraces, each adorned with large stucco masks” characterized by “carefully worked masonry, exquisite and complex interplay of angles and levels, and (where preserved) smooth, crisp, and beautifully executed stucco modeling.” Furthermore, the ball court marker (discussed later) from the Huhnapu structure is the “earliest in situ painting found at San Bartolo” (Hurst 2009: 41). Analysis on the iconography of the stucco sculpture of the Huhnapu structure is ongoing and will provide important information about the investment of massive artwork in civic spaces (Figure 4.2). Another possible example of Middle Preclassic modeled stucco facade sculpture includes an interred building from nearby Río Azul, although a firm date is not available (Adams 1999; Valdez 1992).

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E-GROUPS

As mentioned earlier, Middle Preclassic community building in the Central Lowlands very often began with the construction of a distinct architectural pattern, labeled and now reified as the “E-Group type.” By 500 BC, numerous large E-Group plazas and platforms, requiring a sizable labor force to construct, existed across the Central Lowlands (Figure 4.3). The distribution and similarity of these works in the Central Lowlands signal to archaeologists that populations aggregated or cooperated at this time, permanently altering the

4.3. Map showing sites with E-Groups in the Central Lowlands area.

E-GROUPS

(a)

(b)

(c)

4.4. Diagram of idealized E-Group (redrawn after Aimers and Rice 2006: fig. 6); viewing line for (a) summer solstice; (b) equinoxes; (c) winter solstice.

built environment (cf. Rosenswig 2012: 128). The following discussion explores the distribution of E-Groups as an indicator of widely shared concepts of landscape and emerging authority. E-Groups are named after Group E at Uaxactun, excavated by the Carnegie Institution of Washington in the early twentieth century (Blom 1924; Ricketson 1928; Ricketson and Ricketson 1937; Ruppert 1940). These groups most often contain the earliest cultural material at their respective sites (Clark and Hansen 2001; Fialko 1988; Hansen 1992; Laporte and Fialko 1995; Laporte and Valdés 1993). Various E-Groups exhibit similar features and orientation, all arranged around a rectangular plaza that served as a defined level space. The primary buildings include a large square-based pyramid on the western side of the plaza, usually “radial” or with staircases on each face (Coggins 1980; Cohodas 1980). East of the pyramid lies a long, narrow platform with the longer axis running north to south, sometimes containing three structures. These three structures, usually dating to the Classic-period, generally lined up with the locations of the sunrise on the solstices and equinoxes when viewed from the western pyramid (Figure 4.4). Thus scholars consider that the original configuration of E-Groups facilitated observation of solar movement, albeit with some reservations about their accuracy as actual observatories (Aveni, Dowd, and Vining 2003; Aveni and Hartung 1989). The precise social function or meaning of E-Groups eluded archaeologists in the twentieth century, although most concurred that they are not residential spaces. The main argument about the meaning of E-Groups is that they were used for rituals commemorating agricultural cycles (Aimers 1993: 46; Aimers and Rice 2006; Aveni, Dowd, and Vining 2003; Aveni and Hartung 1989; Aylesworth 2004; Chase and Chase 1995; Stanton and Freidel 2003).

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Origins The origins of E-Groups are poorly understood and have been a source of much debate. Some scholars propose E-Groups as part of a larger construction pattern, dubbed the “Middle Formative Chiapas (MFC)” pattern, with architectural groups on a north-south axis found at many different sites (Clark and Hansen 2001: 4; Inomata et al. 2013). The MFC pattern also contains residential platforms or “compounds” of approximately 80 by 80 meters (Clark and Hansen 2001: 4; Hendon 1999). Some have also posited that the earliest MFC groups exist in the Grijalva Basin of Chiapas or may be similar to groups at the “Olmec” site of La Venta, Tabasco, Mexico (Clark and Hansen 2001; Lowe 1989: 61, fig. 4.1a). Unfortunately, a lack of precise comparative chronology between the Maya Lowlands and the Gulf Coast impedes an understanding of where and when E-Groups first appeared. Information from Ceibal indicates complex processes in which “the emergence of standardized ceremonial complexes . . . were possibly associated with increasingly prescribed forms of interactions and shared notions of new social order” (Inomata et al. 2013: 470). Regardless of their original conception, analogous civic spaces in other regions do not necessarily indicate the same beliefs or behaviors that characterized the spaces in the Maya Lowlands. The available data from the Maya Lowlands show a consistency in construction techniques and dimensions of buildings that differs greatly from similar groups, such as Chiapa de Corzo (Bachand and Lowe 2012) and Mirador, Chiapas (cf. Clark and Hansen 2001: figs. 1.3 and 1.4). The existence of a distinct regional pattern in the central Maya Lowlands suggests an independent, parallel development from similar groups in Chiapas and Tabasco, although more data are needed (Hansen 2000: 56). It is clear that local conditions and social needs, perhaps related to the unique processes of daily life, permitted the flourishing of E-Group plazas in the Maya Lowlands. Thus, regardless of where and when they first appeared, the frequency and distribution of E-Groups at major Lowland population centers during the Middle Preclassic imply that the structures and wide plaza formed an integral part of community life (Aimers and Rice 2006: 82; Chase and Chase 1995: 100; Clark and Hansen 2001; Inomata et al. 2013: 470). My own work on E-Groups has emphasized that they indicate a social map of the landscape that is unique and consistent within the Central Lowlands and vastly different from what was happening in other areas at the same time. Recent excavations at Ceibal draw interesting parallels to La Venta–type ritual activity in a suspected E-Group (Castillo Aguilar and Inomata 2011; Inomata et al. 2013). But the expression of similar ideas of dedication in other sites in the Central Lowlands is either absent or appears categorically different pending

E-GROUPS

further results from Ceibal. The contention here is that a shared politic of everyday life gave rise to common civic requirements in 500 BC, which were decidedly unique to sites that shared material and architectural practices. More work on the Middle Preclassic plazas and platforms of E-Groups will illuminate the process of the local rooting of wider political life and how the societies lived that built them.

Categorization Because my first encounter with E-Groups occurred in the large-scale examples from the Central Lowlands, my prior analysis focused on similar groups (Doyle 2012). Formally, I only considered E-Groups with wide rectangular plazas of approximately 50 meters east-west by 100 meters north-south, as bounded by a large western pyramid of approximately 30–60 meters at the base and a long eastern platform ranging from approximately 50 to 100 meters north-south (Laporte 2001). The current enlarged sample consists of E-Group sites that exhibit similar architectural forms, most importantly the defined level plaza space. As noted by Ruppert (1940: 224) and others, most of the E-Groups that fit these criteria are located in the central Maya Lowlands, ranging from southern Campeche and Quintana Roo in the north, eastward to the Holmul River Valley, and south to the Petén Lakes region (Figure 4.3). Next, I expand prior geographic descriptions by including sites that fit within the broader Central Lowlands tradition. One major obstacle to the application of the E-Group category is that the visible dimensions generally reflect the Late Preclassic configurations of such groups. Chronological history is crucial because the architectural groups did not develop overnight, nor did they remain fixed in form for centuries. However, as demonstrated through stratigraphic excavation, many E-Groups are clearly built on smaller forms in the same arrangement erected during the Middle Preclassic (Doyle et al. 2011; Estrada-Belli 2011; Laporte and Fialko 1995; Laporte and Valdés 1993). The limited evidence of Middle Preclassic E-Group architecture shows construction on natural bedrock or masonry and plaster platforms, perhaps with superstructures (Doyle et al. 2011; Estrada-Belli 2006: 58, 2011: 77; Hansen 1998; Laporte and Fialko 1995). Another challenge with previous E-Group research is a tendency to view the type synchronically over too long a time range. As Laporte (1993a: 303, 1995) and Fialko (1988; Laporte and Fialko 1995) have noted, there is a clear disconnection in the meanings and functions of E-Groups between the Preclassic and Classic-periods. Although some have argued that the “construction of E-groups in general appears to have spanned most of Preclassic and Classic Maya history” (Aimers and Rice

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2006: 80), the dearth of accurate and contemporaneous site plans impedes a conclusive understanding of E-Group chronology in many sites. I do not include subtypologies of E-Groups based on Late Preclassic arrangements (e.g., Chase and Chase 1995) and arguments for variant E-Group examples in the Classic-period (e.g., Guderjan 2006) in the current analysis. In other words, I argue that the construction of E-Groups is a purely Preclassic phenomenon. The current-study E-Group divides sites into three different groups: (1) those with definite Middle Preclassic E-Groups, (2) those with unexcavated E-Groups but nearby evidence of Middle Preclassic occupation, and (3) unexcavated sites with E-Groups that fit the formal criteria (see Figure 4.3). Examples with stratigraphic evidence of Middle Preclassic E-Group construction include • • • •

Cival (Estrada-Belli 2011); El Palmar (Doyle et al. 2011); Nakbe (Hansen 1992, 1998); Naranjo (Fialko 2004: 180; Gámez 2005: 229; Quintana Samayoa and Wurster 2004; Quintana Samayoa 2008); • San Bartolo (Urquizú and Saturno 2008); • Tikal (Laporte and Fialko 1995); and • Uaxactun (Laporte and Valdés 1993; Ricketson and Ricketson 1937).

Examples of E-Groups as defined earlier that have not been fully excavated but exist at sites with firm archaeological evidence for Middle Preclassic occupation include • Calakmul (Carrasco Vargas 1999, 2003; Delvendahl 2008; Domínguez Carrasco 1994: 301); • Caracol (Chase and Chase 1995, 2006); • Cenote (although as Chase [1983: 149] notes, the E-Group may have Middle Preclassic construction); • El Mirador (Forsyth 2006: 499–500; Hansen 1990, 1998); • Holtun (Kovacevich 2010; Kovacevich et al. 2012); • Lamanai (Pendergast 1981; Powis 2002); • Mucaancah (Flores Esquivel and Šprajc 2009; Šprajc 2008, 2009, 2012); • Nakum (Quintana Samayoa and Wurster 2002; Zralka 2008: 31); • Wakna (Hansen 1998); • Yaxha (Quintana Samayoa 2008; Quintana Samayoa et al. 2000); • and Yaxnohcah (Flores Esquivel and Šprajc 2009; Šprajc 2008, 2009, 2012).

Finally, many sites exhibit E-Groups with the formal criteria, but have yet to be excavated thoroughly, such as:

E-GR OUP CHRONOLOGY

• • • • • • • •

Balakbal (Ruppert and Denison 1943; Šprajc 2012); Dos Aguadas (Bullard, Jr. 1960); El Cedro (Mejía, ed. 2009); El Pesquero (Mejía, ed. 2009); Ixkun (Laporte 1996, 2001); Ixtonton (Laporte 1993b, 1996, 2001); Las Torres (Mejía 2009); Naachtun (Nondédéo and Michelet 2011; Nondédéo et al. 2012; Rangel and Reese-Taylor 2005; Reese-Taylor et al. 2005; Ruppert and Denison 1943); • Pacbitun (Healy 1990); • Uxul (Paap, Benavides Castillo, and Grube 2010; Ruppert and Denison 1943); and • Xulnal (Mejía 2008: 654, fig. 12).

I based my model of Central Lowland E-Groups, then, on sites with similar architectural patterns, divided into three groups by building chronology ranging from Middle Preclassic certainty, to high probability, to a predicted Middle Preclassic outcome (see Figure 4.3). Further archaeological investigation in the E-Group plazas of the high probability and predicted groups of sites could recover similar evidence as found in the first group of well-excavated examples. It is also probable that other E-Groups exist outside the known clusters in the study area, and the list will only continue to grow (e.g., Estrada-Belli 2011: fig. 4.5; Garrison 2007: 125; Laporte 2001: fig. 1; Morales 2004). E-GROUP CHRONOLOGY

The premise here is that the Middle Preclassic Maya constructed settlements with monumental architecture in very specific locations on the landscape. That is, although small villages probably existed across the Lowland terrain, only certain places became foci of monumental E-Group construction. Previous studies concluded that Classic Maya sites generally lie in prominent areas of greater relative height than the average terrain (Podobnikar and Šprajc 2007). I examined the sample of E-Groups for early community organization and information about the original choices made by settlers when building monumental civic enters. While I have previously compared the work I had done at El Palmar with the neighboring site of Tikal (see Doyle 2017), I expand here the description of chronological sequencing to underscore the similarities in community construction of the two E-Groups in the Middle Preclassic (Figure 4.5). Specifically, I compare the architectural techniques and chronology of Structure 5C-54 of Mundo Perdido, Tikal, and Structure E4-1 of the E-Group at El Palmar. These two buildings, the respective radial E-Group

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4.5. (Above) Plan of El Palmar E-Group. (Below) Plan of Mundo Perdido, Tikal, Late Preclassic period (after Laporte and Fialko 1995: fig. 12).

pyramids at each site, present strong sealed archaeological contexts in wellpreserved architectural phases that facilitate chronological comparison. The proximity of the two sites begs the question, What factors could have contributed to two similar monumental plaza groups in these specific locations? The Mundo Perdido group demonstrates a continual, episodic occupation from the early Middle Preclassic period to the Terminal Classic-period

E-GR OUP CHRONOLOGY

49

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4.6. (a) Cross section of El Palmar Structures E4-1 and E4-4 with profiles of excavated areas. (Below) Reconstruction cross section of Tikal Structures 5C-54 and 5D-86 (after Laporte and Fialko 1995: fig. 6). Asterisks denote Middle Preclassic construction phases. (b) Reconstructed sequence of El Palmar Structures E4-1 and E4-4.

(ca. 1000 BC–AD 900) (Laporte and Fialko 1995). The El Palmar E-Group exhibits a similar Middle Preclassic beginning but seems to have been completely abandoned during the transition from the Late Preclassic to the Early Classic (Doyle et al. 2011). Tunnel excavations in the western pyramids of each site (El Palmar Structure E4-1 and Tikal Structure 5C-54) have revealed at least five to six construction phases throughout the Preclassic, beginning with earthen platforms, transitioning to masonry architecture surfaced with stucco, and finally solid-block construction with modeled stucco facades (Figure 4.6). The architectural fill consists of bajo mud and fine limestone blocks and soils (Doyle et al. 2011: 47–8; Laporte 1983: 1-08–1-25). The earliest ceramics from El Palmar correspond to this Late Eb or Early Tzec phase, known as the “early Mamom sphere” in the Uaxactun sequence (Figure 4.7). I have divided the Middle Preclassic ceramics from El Palmar based on stratigraphy into Early Mamom and Late Mamom. From the radial E-Group pyramid, Structure E4-1, several suggestive patterns about the earliest

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(a)

(b)

(c)

(d)

(e)

4.7. Representative Preclassic ceramic vessels recovered from El Palmar and the Buenavista Valley: (a) Joventud Group; (b) Chunhinta Group; (c) Sierra Group; (d) Flor Group; (e) Polvero Group. (Drawings by James Doyle.)

ceramics at El Palmar emerged. One clear feature of early Mamom ceramics at El Palmar is a prevalence of the variegated or mottled color palette. What this suggests to the modern observer is either intentional variation of the firing environment to produce the differential slip colors or a lack of control of the firing environment. For example, the potters of two semicomplete bowls with similar slip mottling seemed to have intended a mostly black slip, but are the cream to red areas mistakes or part of a purposeful aesthetic? In the radial

E-GR OUP CHRONOLOGY

pyramid sample and other parts of El Palmar, early Mamom surface treatments include postfiring incisions, chamfering, shallow fluting, and bichrome rim treatments (e.g., red-on-cream) (Figure 4.7). Although not found in high frequency, chamfered plates (thirteen sherds) are more common in early Mamom at El Palmar, as noted in other Lowland samples (Takeshi Inomata, personal communication 2013). Early Mamom or Late Eb/Early Tzec architecture at Tikal and El Palmar is strikingly similar. The Middle Preclassic civic plaza construction at El Palmar is consistent with that described at Cival and Nakbe earlier. The residents began by leveling the bedrock surface through the addition of sandy or gravelly fills and then proceeded to create a level surface through a stucco pavement. The earliest phases of El Palmar Structure E4-1 were built very close to bedrock, although little is known about the form or radiometric dates of the early building. A possible posthole, filled with dark mud that included a polished biface reduction flake of blue jade (Zachary Hruby, personal communication 2011), perhaps held a superstructure associated with the earliest phase (Figure 4.8). The blue jade flake hints at similar symbolic deposits found at Ceibal and Cival, although more evidence is needed. The fact that the flake, presumably kept and polished rather than discarded as debitage, lacked any sort of perforation indicative of other use is suggestive of its value solely based on the source material rather than function. This flake is consistent with the “blue” jadeite common in other Middle Preclassic deposits and contexts (Estrada-Belli 2006: 59). The following construction phases at Mundo Perdido (5C-54-2A and 2B) and at El Palmar (E4-1-5th) share very similar sequences of construction fill that encased the earliest building. Structure E4-1-5th was a substantial increase in volume from the prior structure and consisted of a sandy, tightly packed fill and stone-lined platforms and staircase (Figure 4.9). Although few materials were found within the construction fill, the few sherds show production techniques similar to early Mamom-complex materials from elsewhere in the Lowlands, which tentatively dates this phase to approximately 600 BC. The fill was tightly packed and yielded the earliest waxy-slipped Mamom ceramics from El Palmar. One semicomplete bowl, mentioned earlier, was perhaps cached as a dedicatory offering on the east-west axis while builders constructed the tamped-earth floor (Figure 4.10). A notable lack of plaster coatings from the earliest two phases suggests that builders at El Palmar in the Middle Preclassic did not yet incorporate plaster into the facades, which differs from how Laporte describes Tikal. This is consistent with the early constructions at Cuello and other early sites that plaster at this time was strictly reserved for use surfaces, i.e., floors, stairs, etc. The middle-to-late Mamom-phase architecture represents a noteworthy advance in architectural practice at El Palmar and Tikal. The following phase

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(a)

(b)

1cm

4.8. (a) Possible posthole, excavation unit EP-8A-15, with blue jade polished biface reduction flake in situ, (b) blue jade in laboratory.

of the structure, Structure E4-1-4th, was the final enlargement of the platform in the Middle Preclassic, in a style similar to Middle Preclassic buildings encountered in Nakbe (Hansen 1998: 59, figs. 6 and 9). The building contained an intricate facade composed almost entirely of long, flat cut stones

E-GR OUP CHRONOLOGY

(a)

(b)

1m

(c)

4.9. Structure E4-1-5th: (a) north-section profile, EP-8A-13; (b) photograph of EP-8A-13; (c) photographs of EP-8A-13 and EP-8A-14.

(Figure 4.11). The dark mud fills of this structure, discussed in detail in prior publications (see Doyle 2012), included large quantities of Mamom-complex ceramics, figurines (Figure 4.12), and early-stage stone tool production debitage and yielded radiocarbon dates for the organic sediment, likely from the nearby laguna, deposited originally between 1800 and 1600 BC. The stratigraphy of this layer and the exceptional preservation of the ceramics could suggest that the artifacts were included in the fill as the builders covered Structure E4-1-5th rather than refuse that ended up in the mud before

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4.10. Semicomplete vessel from EP-8A-14, deposited during the construction of E4-1-4th.

extraction. After encasing E4-1-5th in the dark mud, builders deposited a layer almost entirely composed of chert flakes and nodules. Similar layers were also noted by excavators in the Ventanas pyramid at San Bartolo (Urquizú and Saturno 2004: 611) and other sites. Flat stones were vertically stacked and filled with a masonry mortar, including possible stucco at the corner seams. The Middle Preclassic staircase was covered by a layer of thick white stucco not evident on the facade. The fills of this structure, discussed in detail later, included large quantities of Mamomcomplex ceramics, figurines, and early-stage stone tool-production debitage. The plaster plaza floor was also considerably thick; at least two samples recovered were more than 7 centimeters thick and hard enough to be able to be removed in large blocks (Figure 4.13). Future analysis of the stucco may yield new evidence about early construction techniques (e.g., Abrams et al. 2012; Hansen, Hansen, and Derrick 1995; Littmann 1962; Villaseñor and Aimers 2009). Although certainly not identical in construction technique or decoration, there are certain similarities between the Mamom or Late Eb/Tzec buildings at El Palmar and Tikal. Given such similarities, What are some possible models for

E-GR OUP CHRONOLOGY

2

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4.11. Structure E4-1-4th, units EP-8A-9 and EP-8A-10.

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4.12. Middle Preclassic figurine heads recovered from El Palmar. (Photographs by Arturo Godoy; drawings by Morgan Ritter-Armour.)

how these two sites conceived of each other and interacted with one another? Is it possible that we are seeing the actions of autonomous political units – communities of people who identified with the E-Group center through their social lives? Were people, as I have previously proposed (Doyle 2012: 370), engaging in monumental building that coincided with their “desire to create and maintain distance from others over the landscape”? The likelihood that two communities so relatively close to each other independently innovated techniques such as the noted fills composed of dark clayey soils layered with stones and crushed limestone is low. There are several hypotheses about how information traveled between builders. First, the two places could be under the influence of each other or a third authority during the Middle Preclassic. However, there is little evidence that any one site held any sway over another; in fact, there are few, if any, explicit statements of royal authority from this time, much less any statements of political hierarchy as known from Classic-period inscriptions. The same lack of evidence holds true if we consider that Tikal, a well-known Classic-period power, might have directly influenced the building at El Palmar by enforcing standards of some sort. Considering that these building patterns exist at other sites in the area, two hypotheses for these similar architectural trends seem more plausible than those emphasizing a dominant political authority. One major question is, How many

E-GR OUP CHRONOLOGY

(a)

(b)

4.13. Middle Preclassic stucco floor samples recovered from El Palmar Structure E4-1: (a) EP-8A-16-1 and (b) EP-8A-14-7.

people lived near the E-Groups at this time? It is highly possible that people lived in dispersed settlements between and around El Palmar and Tikal, visiting and contributing to the E-Groups at either or both at any time. This is similar to a pilgrimage model (Stanton and Freidel 2003: 8). A final option that may be borne out with more iconographic or textual evidence is that of a shared mythology, dictating periodic renewals according to cycles of deep time.

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When considering the episodic expansions in the Late Preclassic, the latter possibility becomes more and more likely the starting point for future investigations. E-GROUP FORM

The social mechanisms at work during the Middle Preclassic, which allowed for the seemingly rapid and pervasive spread of architectural techniques and Mamom-sphere production technology, became ingrained in Lowland Maya society. In other words, over the 300–400 years that we associate with Mamom-type ceramics, the interaction between communities continued and intensified over time. Again, we know very little about the people who actually lived in or near these E-Group communities during this time. I would contend that the transition from Middle to Late Preclassic remains largely unknown in terms of political organization and is an important research topic in the coming years (see Hammond 1986: 402). No two E-Groups are alike. However, the monumental scale of the El Palmar and Tikal groups during the Preclassic is very similar to that of other groups. In these two examples, the plazas are of comparable width, a significant fact in light of the construction sequences mentioned earlier. Excavation data show that, as an initial step, the plazas were leveled and paved with plaster, with concurrent construction of the eastern platform and western platforms. An important attribute of the plazas is their rectangularity. In both cases, the builders of subsequent phases went to great lengths to preserve the footprint of the plaza – to maintain the size over time – by constructing the bulk of structures away from the center, sometimes even destroying earlier structures (Doyle et al. 2011: 48; Laporte 1983; Laporte and Fialko 1995: fig. 6). A key point to note is that despite the cessation of construction in many E-Groups during the Early Classic, the residents of monumental centers maintained the plaza space throughout generations of later settlement. This pattern of plaza preservation, also noted at many other sites in the area (Estrada-Belli 2011: 77), could possibly be a defining factor of E-Groups – that the absolute size of the plaza was crucial to those who built the group. One interpretation of the plaza size has been that it created sightlines that allowed for viewing of the sunrise on certain points throughout the year (Aimers and Rice 2006: fig. 6). Recent research on plazas throughout many time periods in Mesoamerica also proposes that these wide, level spaces were actually gathering spaces for specific numbers of people to participate in ritual performances (Inomata 2006a, 2006b; Lucero 2003). In many cases, perhaps even the impetus to build collective projects “may have been less to create the mounds and more to create the space in between” (Rosenswig and Burger 2012: 13).

E-GROUP D ISTR IB UT ION AND EARLY M AY A POLITICS

Thus the respective E-Group plazas at Tikal and El Palmar were likely the setting of similar social activities for the inhabitants of each community. E-GROUP DISTRIBUTION AND EARLY MAYA POLITICS

El Palmar and Tikal are located very close together (~15 kilometers), and GIS studies of line of sight show that the two centers were probably intervisible, even in Preclassic times (Doyle et al. 2011). Remote sensing and settlement survey near El Palmar (Garrison and Garrido 2009; Garrison et al. 2011) and Tikal (Straight 2012; Webster 2007) have yet to reveal an E-Group, as defined earlier, between or near the two sites. Thus, at least in the area around these two Middle Preclassic monumental centers, only two specific places contain a major plaza with a similar inventory of associated major architectural constructions. Therefore, spatial analysis of these two sites has the potential to address early geopolitical processes and motivations to build at particular locations across the central Maya Lowlands. Prior distributional analysis of E-Group sites in the area based on twodimensional maps (e.g., Aimers 1993) has been inconclusive, in part, because it lacked a connection to the topography of particular local landscapes. My work here falls under the rubric of recent spatial analysis in archaeology that has used GIS as a tool to provide alternative hypotheses for site location by considering visual perception of the landscape through viewshed analysis (Arkush 2011; Doyle, Garrison, and Houston 2012; Estrada-Belli and Koch 2007: 266; Kosiba and Bauer 2012; Krist and Brown 1994; Lock and Harris 1996: 225; Madry and Rakos 1996; Podobnikar and Šprajc 2007). Spatial research on Classic Maya cities has proposed viewshed or direct line-of-sight observation as a motivation for certain Classic-period constructions (EstradaBelli 2008; Golden 2010; Golden and Davenport 2013; Podobnikar and Šprajc 2007; Quintana Samayoa 2008: fig. 10). For further critiques of viewshed analysis in general, see Conolly and Lake (2006: 228–33) and Wheatley and Gillings (2000: 2–3). I chose to use viewshed analysis as a method to evaluate visibility as a possible factor in the Middle Preclassic Maya spatial consideration of the landscape using a variety of data sets and methods (for further discussion of data sources and methods, see Doyle, Houston, and Garrison 2012; Doyle 2012, 2013). Several limitations continue to affect the utility of viewshed analysis in the Maya Lowlands, mainly the consideration of what a human viewer could have seen in the past and whether visibility was meaningful to inhabitants. An additional consideration for the utility of surface topography to create viewsheds for periods in antiquity is the nature of Maya constructions, namely, that the current surfaces of buildings and plazas represent a higher elevation than prior time periods. In other words, the ancient Maya did not remove prior floors and

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4.14. Viewsheds from El Palmar (white) and Tikal (dark gray). Cumulative viewsheds generated from E-Group locations based on 5-meter-resolution AIRSAR Digital Elevation Model.

temples before building anew; they simply added onto existing ones, thus creating problems when using the currently available elevation models. Although admittedly different from the early unmodified landscape during the Middle Preclassic, modern surfaces can be useful to model ancient visibility despite concerns about the conclusive nature of Maya-area viewshed analysis (Doyle 2013; Golden and Davenport 2013). Between Tikal and El Palmar, at a distance of 15 kilometers, probably only the largest structures, smoke, and fire would be visible to the naked eye. From the approximate location of the El Palmar and Tikal E-Groups according to modern surface topography, it is clear that a large territory around each site is visible, with the majority of the visible areas mutually exclusive and nonoverlapping (Figure 4.14). The viewshed pattern hints that early E-Groups were constructed in the Middle Preclassic landscape to exist on higher ground relative to nearby terrain to allow for a clear view of the nearby geographic area, not solely to view the sun rising on the solstices and equinoxes. Such a distribution could perhaps be a consequence of the hydrologic processes in the tropical environment, as communities avoided low-lying areas that flood during the intense rainy season. The fact that the viewsheds appear to be at intervals based on visibility of the landscape relative to each other may also speak to the original decisions of the settlers who built the E-Groups at Tikal and El Palmar. In other words, settlers of one area were conscious of how far away they were or how visible the intervening territory was from prior settlements when they began monumental constructions. Although problematic for the reasons described earlier, I applied viewshed modeling to the other E-Group sites in the study to explore the possibility that,

E-GROUP D ISTR IB UT ION AND EARLY M AY A POLITICS

4.15. Viewsheds from sites with Middle Preclassic E-Groups.

as many have argued for the Classic Maya, the Preclassic Maya may also have built centers with visibility of other centers or surrounding areas in mind. The El Palmar–Tikal pattern of nonoverlapping viewshed models also appears when examining ASTER surface models for other Middle Preclassic E-Group sites in the Central Lowlands tradition (Figure 4.15). The landscape seems to contain communities with complementary areas of visible topography; for example, Uaxactun and San Bartolo have expansive views, but aside from the elevated ridges, their areas of visible territory do not overlap significantly.

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4.16. Viewsheds from all E-Group sites.

The same holds true for Cival and Naranjo, as their viewsheds are divergent except for the prominent ridge to the west of the sites. The Nakbe viewshed extends radially more than 10 kilometers, supporting claims for its Middle Preclassic importance in the Mirador region (Espinosa Ramírez 2012; Hansen 1992, 2000). Expanding the viewshed pattern analysis to other E-Group sites suggests that although centers were intervisible, they did not share large views of the surrounding landscape (Figure 4.16). For example, the views from Calakmul,

RELIGIOUS I MPLICATIONS

Yahnohcah, Naachtun, and Balakbal seem to cover a continuous large area, but closer examination reveals little overlap between the four viewsheds despite their geographic proximity. The same pattern holds up for Uxul, El Mirador, Nakbe, Wakna, and Xulnal, some of the largest settlements in the El Mirador region. Another cluster of close sites in the southern Mirador area, El Cedro, El Pesquero, and Las Torres, demonstrates that even the sites with the least intersite distance do not have significant overlapping viewsheds. Another notable characteristic of sites such as El Palmar, Cenote, and Yaxha is that the viewsheds cover most, if not all, of the nearby water sources. The viewshed analysis, although based on the modern surface and not the original, unmodified topography that lies under the actual site cores, supports the interpretation that the distribution of early monumental site cores, possibly as early as the Middle Preclassic, could have been based on sightlines and vistas. CONSTRUCTING E-GROUP MEANING IN THE MIDDLE PRECLASSIC

Most prior research on the function of E-Groups operates on the assumption that “it is sufficient to repeat the generality that this special arrangement of mounds served ritual purposes, perhaps connected with observations of the sun’s passage and with calendrical rites” (Clark and Hansen 2001: 23). I have attempted to depart from this assumption in my recent studies of E-Groups. Here I address the new and old archaeological evidence, which has opened new channels for research into the social meaning of the monumental plazas and associated buildings of the Middle Preclassic Maya centers. RELIGIOUS IMPLICATIONS

E-Group locations with a commanding view of the surrounding landscape could possibly relate to the appearance of “radial” pyramids, with staircases on all four sides, implicative of cosmic centrality and four-part movement and ritual, as discussed earlier (Coggins 1980; Cohodas 1980). The directionality of architecture – and possible general patterns of Maya cosmology – is also reflected in dedicatory offerings at Ceibal and Cival (Estrada-Belli 2006, 2011; Inomata et al. 2013; Willey 1978). Unfortunately, due to overburden from Late Preclassic and Classic constructions, radial pyramids in the Middle Preclassic are difficult to identify, and such cosmological interpretations “may take as cause what may be consequences of the first monumental constructions” (Joyce 2004: 8).

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Aimers and Rice (2006: 79) argue that these groups were settings for “large-scale ritual concerning the solar cycle, the sociopolitical and religious role of which may have varied through time and space.” This is an extension of earlier hypotheses related to solar observation and timekeeping (Aimers and Rice 2006: 82–3). Timekeeping properties of E-Groups could pertain to the 260-day ritual calendar in use from the Middle Preclassic until the present (Aimers and Rice 2006: 88). The most cogent suggestion related to timekeeping is that “E-Groups came to be constructed specifically to celebrate longer calendrical cycles of 20 years known as katuns” (Aimers and Rice 2006: 90). Based on early katun celebrations marked on stelae in E-Groups, as well as their similarities to twin-pyramid complexes erected to celebrate Late Classic katun passings, Aimers and Rice (2006: 93) conclude that E-Groups were “theatres in which calendrical rituals – especially katun celebrations – were enacted, as well as dramatic displays of ruler’s agency within a divinely directed cosmos.” Two assumptions underlie such interpretations that deserve reexamination. First, the statement that the E-Groups “were constructed in the ceremonial cores of many sites” should perhaps be rephrased because archaeological evidence at Central Lowlands sites shows that residents constructed them first, or as the ceremonial core. In other words, the ceremonial nature of the core began with the construction of the E-Group. The second assumption is that these early Middle Preclassic E-Groups were associated with divine rulership. Although it is clear that early E-Groups were civic and certainly communal, requiring the participation of many builders, evidence for divine rulership that we know from later Maya groups remains equivocal until more research addresses political authority in the Middle Preclassic period.

Sociopolitical Implications of Early Maya E-Groups Could the proposed visible territories as viewed from E-Groups, the conceptual community centers, show spatial territories defined by boundaries of visible extent? Juan Pedro Laporte (1993a: 314) argued that E-Groups were clues to understanding the extents of Early Classic sociopolitical units. The GIS research here supports this assertion, proposing the existence of distinct communities with similar monumental spaces as far back as the Middle Preclassic period. To review, the architectural similarity and geographic distance of the E-Group communities could imply that each asserted a conceptual autonomy relative to its neighbors. But what was the sociopolitical impulse for populations to construct new civic centers rather than migrating to existing communities? E-Groups could perhaps be the earliest examples of a Maya

RELIGIOUS I MPLICATIONS

civic requirement for sociopolitical units, a space and monumental architectural formation necessary for settlers to interact with one another (Ashmore 2005: 40). Furthermore, “such newly established centers likely served as spaces of social interaction and integration that generated new political orders and complexity” (Estrada-Belli 2012: 199). More broadly, it seems that Middle Preclassic monumentality coincided with the settlers’ distinct desire to create and maintain distance from others over the landscape, another nod to the confluence of group identity and possibly political authority. Future excavations in Middle Preclassic monumental civic centers will illuminate the sociopolitical relationship between these distinct but architecturally similar communities and the activities they engaged in during their daily lives. It is important to mention the implications of Middle Preclassic communities that did not construct E-Groups. The distribution of E-Groups described earlier applies to the central Lowlands, where known groups exhibit the most similar morphologic and chronologic similarities. E-Groups as defined are conspicuously absent at the same frequency in certain areas, including the Usumacinta drainage, the eastern (coastal) Lowlands of Belize, and the northern Lowlands, all regions that demonstrate ample evidence of Middle Preclassic occupations. Some E-Groups have been identified in these areas, but they are generally of differing scales and architectural forms from those in the central area, such as La Técnica along the Usumacinta (Scherer, Golden, and Vásquez 2008) and Dzibilchaltun and Yaxuna in northern Yucatan (Andrews and Andrews 1980; Stanton and Freidel 2003, 2005), among others. A clear example of a Middle Preclassic site that lacks an E-Group civic space but shows evidence of shared Middle Preclassic Maya ritual practice is Cuello, Belize (see map in Hammond 1991b; cf. Aimers 1993, cited in Aimers and Rice 2006: 81). Why, then, would certain Preclassic centers noticeably lack monumental civic spaces and buildings that seem so prominent and necessary in other communities? If the construction of E-Groups indeed represents communities consciously positioning themselves on the landscape, what implications does this have for communities without such monumental civic spaces? A likely scenario is that most, if not all, early Maya communities such as Cuello constructed elevated platforms in the earliest expressions of monumentality. However, residents at sites such as El Palmar designated the E-Group as a common goal for themselves. In fact, at some places, such as Cival, Yaxha, and El Mirador, residents constructed multiple E-Groups, often at varying scales. An understanding of the chronology of these twin E-Groups might reveal important information about the evolution of the architectural form. As mentioned earlier, the evidence and chronological development of ritual activity that contributed to monumental growth of E-Groups in the Middle

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Preclassic is largely inaccessible to current archaeological research methods. Therefore, it is impossible to distinguish between the dynamic historical trajectories of a site like Cuello and the sites with E-Groups, such as Tikal and Uaxactun. Regardless, recent excavations and comparative evidence from across the Maya Lowlands bring to light new possibilities for central Lowlands tradition E-Groups. Specifically, evidence exists that E-Groups and their common inventory of civic architecture may have formed early centers of emerging political authority as elite groups and individuals engaged with the spaces in which people gathered for various activities. The fact that many sites with Middle Preclassic E-Groups later developed into dynastic kingdoms invites further exploration of the relationship between E-Groups, population aggregation, and early Maya political authority.

Evidence for Gathering and Exchange These E-Group plazas would have accommodated large numbers of people, almost certainly more than residents in the immediate vicinity, according to current archaeological evidence. The scale of these plazas could mean that people could have been traveling to the E-Groups from a distance, as proposed by Estrada-Belli for the site of Cival, where “the first inhabitants of the Cival community lived on hilltop farmsteads widely dispersed in a 3.7 km radius around the main hill. Construction of the first ceremonial plaza was contemporary with the first farming occupation and is not a result of gradual population increase” (Estrada-Belli and Wahl 2010: 25). The likelihood that people from distant areas constructed and periodically gathered in these plazas has important implications when considering material culture evidence from the Middle Preclassic period. At El Palmar, a striking feature of Middle Preclassic building practices became evident in building fills. When constructing the Middle Preclassic (ca. 500 BC) pyramid of the E-Group, the residents of El Palmar used distinct layers of dark mud from low-lying wetlands and a layer almost entirely composed of rock and chipped stone tool production debitage (Figure 4.17). Excavators at Mundo Perdido Tikal reported similar layers with large quantities of lithic materials (Laporte 1983: 1–19). Other Middle Preclassic sites with E-Groups have noted large quantities of worked chert in architectural fills (e.g., San Bartolo) (see Saturno 2003: 321). It stands to reason that stone tools were a vital prerequisite for successful Middle Preclassic village life – from hunting, to building shelter, to agricultural production. The debitage recovered at El Palmar consists of a large quantity of middle- and early-stage chert biface reduction flakes, suggesting that residents of El Palmar worked raw chert into biface preforms locally (Hruby and Lang 2009: 310). This chert debitage may imply that El Palmar was located close to a large source of chert (Hester and

RELIGIOUS I MPLICATIONS

4.17. Fill of El Palmar E-Group pyramid, Structure E4-1-4. (Inset) Chert flakes recovered.

Shafer 1984). The proximity to chert sources has also been noted by archaeologists at other major Preclassic sites, such as Tikal, San Bartolo, and many sites in Belize (Cackler et al. 1999; Garrison and Dunning 2009: 535; Moholy-Nagy 1997: 296). The lack of a soil matrix in the lithic layer could signify that the debris was collected directly in the immediate area and deposited in one event when constructing the El Palmar pyramid. It remains unclear who was producing such quantities of stone tools at El Palmar or what prompted the seemingly simultaneous deposit of all the debitage in the construction fill.

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Although more lithic analysis is necessary, the possibility exists that the areas around the E-Group plaza served as a locus for early-stage stone tool craft production, i.e., obtaining and reducing nodules into biface preforms. Such production activities would explain the deposition of such quantities of refuse in the fill of the pyramid. Thus the spatial distribution of Middle Preclassic E-Groups perhaps provides a window into the earliest civic centers of early “moral communities” engaging in daily tasks, such as stone tool production, in addition to ritual activities. The deposit of stone tools and debitage in architectural fills might have symbolic significance as well, considering that working stone was at the “center of craft production from the Early Preclassic onward” (Stuart 2010: 297). Stuart (2010:286) notes that for the Classic Maya, stone was “an inherently powerful and timeless substance, a permanent material both of the earth and transcendent, evoking other spatial realms and categories.” Therefore layers of stone-working byproducts could be considered a deliberate offering, given as part of the building process. An alternative interpretation could be that nearby production areas with their readily available piles of stone were mined for construction fill. But currently it is unclear whether the lithic production was part of the motivation for creating these monumental buildings or a consequence of preexisting E-Group activities that were incorporated into subsequent renewal efforts. Further evidence of a shared Central Lowlands cultural tradition in 500 BC comes from the innovation of Mamom-sphere ceramic technology which happened in the Maya Lowlands around the same time as the appearance of E-Groups. R. E. Smith (1955) initially identified Mamom-type ceramics at Uaxactun characterized by waxy slips and forms including everted-rim bowls and large, unslipped utilitarian jars. Many have noted that the widespread similarities in form and surface treatment of Mamom ceramics may signal a consistent production process throughout a large area (Ringle 1999: 198). The similarities in final products exist even despite a wide diversity of clay sources used for pastes by Middle Preclassic potters in the Buenavista Valley (Ronald Bishop, personal communication 2012). However, no causal explanation or proposed social mechanism exists for such a wide distribution of similar household goods. Stark and Garraty (2010: 33–58; see Feinman and Garraty 2010: 176–8) recently proposed a possibility for the regional distribution of similar household goods such as the Mamom pottery example here. They argue that large-scale distribution of household goods very likely suggests the existence of a market system relative to the possibilities of nonmarket mechanisms such as redistribution. Several lines of evidence in recent research point to the existence of Maya marketplaces in large open plazas throughout many different time periods (Carrasco Vargas, Vásquez López,

CONCLUSIONS

and Martin 2009; Dahlin et al. 2007, 2011). Relevant to the household ceramic example are the early Late Classic market murals at Calakmul, Mexico, where a “clay-vessel person” displays a basket full of vessels, presumably for exchange (Carrasco Vargas, Vásquez López, and Martin 2009: fig. 7). Although highly speculative, perhaps E-Group plazas could have been a spatial medium through which necessary or desired materials flowed. In other words, as populations gathered in E-Groups, perhaps visiting more than one near their home communities, technical knowledge of Mamom-type ceramics spread among communities of potters within a few generations. Thus it is possible that groups of settlers constructed E-Groups as a central place to gather and facilitate access to and exchange of goods such as stone, foodstuffs, and ceramic vessels. To be clear, this is not to argue that the E-Groups during the Preclassic period are equivalent to the proposed “markets” of Classic or Postclassic Maya. Nor is the economic association proposed for E-Groups here a first; Rathje, Gregory, and Wiseman (1978) proposed E-Groups as a complex specifically built to mark calendrical cycles in order to schedule long-distance trade. Their analysis focused on Classic-period processes when, in fact, E-Groups emerged as primary social spaces at many sites much earlier. Considering that the earliest E-Group platforms did not seem to explicitly mark the solstices and equinoxes as observatories (Aveni, Dowd, and Vining 2003; Aveni and Hartung 1989), it is plausible that the platforms and buildings formed a bounded, cleared public space within which early settlers exchanged goods (cf. Stanton and Freidel 2003: 8). CONCLUSIONS

The reality of the E-Group plazas is probably that they were multiuse spaces, with rituals, exchanges, celebrations, and social interactions occurring there throughout time. To reiterate, the distribution of early E-Groups implies that the Middle Preclassic Maya had imposed order on the landscape, an order expressed through the common politics of everyday of civic centers. GIS viewshed analysis supports the hypothesis that sites with Middle Preclassic E-Groups represent centers of early communities with complementary visible access of the landscape, although the social meaning of distance or perceived boundaries remains unknown. As David Freidel reminded me, the viewshed evidence suggests that the Preclassic Lowland Maya shared a Mesoamerica-wide belief that promontories were the symbols of community or polity; for example, the early toponyms in Oaxaca are shown as hilltops, and the later Aztecs represented the concept altepetl with an image of a mountain cave.

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These E-Group plazas could have been the hubs of activity for distinct early polities. The pyramids and platforms might represent the earliest requirement to achieve civic belonging or express political authority among communities in the Maya Lowlands. The E-Groups were the locus of the intersection of the coalescence of group identity, the politics of everyday interactions, and emerging institutional hierarchies. Clear evidence of the power of these plazas comes from the Late Preclassic period, when residents participated in the monumentalization of E-Group buildings, more firmly linking these spaces to mythological time and, likely, powerful leaders.

FIVE

THE ARCHITECTURE AND SPACES O F T H E E A R L Y A J A W , ca. 300–1 BC

A

fter 300 BC, Maya communities invested heavily and increased exponentially the mass of constructions in central places. In many communities, this process coincided with the production of iconographic programs in sculpture and murals that portray mythological narratives acted by human and divine characters. Such images give clues about the performance of political authority in incipient Maya royal courts. By the end of the first millennium BC the name of the community leader, ajaw, owes its origins to the power of speech, of vocal projection. However, caution is necessary in imposing the meaning of the k’uhul ajaw (“holy/divine lord”) we know from the Classic-period back onto the Preclassic holders of the title. In fact, we can almost certainly assume that they were quite different; the duties and responsibilities of early ajaw perhaps had more to do with local communities and mythologies than interaction between city-states that we know from the Classic Maya. Here I examine the actions of those who were likely the early ajaws, how they defined ritual precincts, how they rooted their communities by building on long-standing gathering spaces, and how they monumentalized the grand cosmic concepts into preexisting architecture. In many places, residents planned a recentering of the community away from the E-Group plazas and toward the hulking Triadic Groups, pyramids that are emblematic of this early Late Preclassic period.

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LATE PRECLASSIC MAYA ARCHITECTURAL TECHNIQUES

As mentioned in Chapter 4, the Central Lowlands architectural tradition stands out for its consistency in building materials and patterns. Remarkably thick floors of stucco paved wide plazas, often the thickest plaster floors noted at many sites. Stucco obviously serves very practical purposes, such as repelling and directing rainwater with low erosion rates. In the earliest Maya buildings, including the earliest monumental platforms, a coating of stucco was not part of the construction process. Stucco often coated surfaces that people walked on, including stairs and tiered facades, but not until later did stucco become the medium for aesthetic architectural expression. During the Middle Preclassic, engineers and builders had already conquered certain design problems through the media of stone and mortar. Some basic issues of pyramidal platform design include the transformation of a large, open space into a smaller, elevated, restricted space in a way that would bear the live loads of people or potentially wooden or stone objects. For example, at Nakbe during the Middle Preclassic, builders quickly overcame the destructive force of gravity by learning to tenon the large limestone blocks so that their length extended toward the center, thus distributing the weight of the bulk of the stones toward the central axis, much in the same fashion as the ancient Egyptians (Salvadori 1980: fig. 2.4). Although some have argued that this use of stone was a conspicuous use of resources as a display of political prowess (e.g., Hansen 2000: 63), it also could be a simple form of overcoming by trial and error. Placing heavy limestone blocks over earthen fill so that their lengths were perpendicular to the central axis of the building (or parallel to the edge of the building pyramidal platform) would be highly unstable and would increase the instability with the height of the building. Suffice it to say, the incremental engineering and building knowledge had accumulated to a point during the Middle Preclassic that engineers and builders were able to increase the mass and height of buildings by many degrees. It may seem obvious that stairs and terracing appeared all across the ancient world, but the independent development in Mesoamerica deserves attention in the context of early Maya architecture. Constructing building facades broken up with multiple terraces was another innovative design strategy developed in the Middle Preclassic that overcame the hardships of human physiologic response to sloped surfaces. That some of the earliest stairs on Middle Preclassic monumental buildings were covered in stucco signals to archaeologists that over time, heavy traffic would affect the quality of stairs if they were not protected sufficiently. Terracing also became a medium of expression to Late Preclassic builders. In deciding how one should travel from the plaza floor to the top of a pyramidal building and back down again, the builders opted to break up the vertical movement by adding a multiplicity of access routes

LATE PRECLASSIC MAYA A RCHITECTUR AL TECHNIQUES

5.1. Photograph of Uaxactun E-VII-sub. Copyright © President and Fellows of Harvard College, Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, Harvard University, PM No. 58-34-20/58968 (digital file no. CI009112).

interrupted by sculptural friezes or masks, best seen in the fully exposed Late Preclassic E-VII-sub at Uaxactun (Figure 5.1). Thus, terracing and staircases create an aesthetics of “awe” (see Monroe 2010) by affecting what the viewer sees by standing on various parts of the building and by altering the way that sunlight breaks over the surface of the building during different parts of the day. The Late Preclassic stucco masons wielded high volumes of stucco to play with light and shadows on the facades of Late Preclassic buildings with two widely known architectural features: apron molding and modeled stucco facade masks and friezes. Apron molding is perhaps the most recognizable Preclassic construction technique unique to the Maya Lowlands (Figure 5.2). Originally identified and described by the Tikal Project (Coe 1965: 1417; Loten and Pendergast 1984: fig. 2), apron moldings are sloping surfaces (“aprons”) that culminate in a tenoned tier (“corbel/soffit”) that overhangs a parallel sloping surface (“subapron”) (see Figure 5.2). Often the entire apron, from verge to soffit, was painted bright red. Although the broader meanings of the apron molding, symbolic or otherwise, are not well understood, it is clear from its widespread distribution that the feature had a common shared importance among the Late Preclassic Lowland Maya builders.

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(a)

(b)

(c)

(d)

(e)

5.2. Diagram of Maya apron molding (redrawn by the author after Loten and Pendergast 1984: fig. 1): (a) apron verge; (b) apron; (c) apron corbel; (d) apron soffit; (e) subapron.

The molding gave the E-Group radial pyramids a segmented appearance, especially during midday, when the subapron would have been darkened by the shadow of the corbel. It is possible that the molding induced a “floating effect” (Stephen Houston, personal communication 2008). The disappearance of the subapron at noon is an example of “hierophany,” a term originating from Mircea Eliade (1958: 11, cited in Mendez et al. 2005) meaning the “manifestation of the sacred” and used in contemporary archaeoastronomy to describe “phenomena of sunlight and shadow that play across architectural features during important stations of the sun” (Mendez et al. 2005: 3). In other words, architectural forms specifically convey a particular idea through their relationship with the path of the sun at a specific moment or part of the day. Such hierophanies have been identified by others in the Maya area with respect to E-Groups (Aveni, Dowd, and Vining 2003: 173) and architecture at Palenque (Mendez et al. 2005). As more data become available from Preclassic architecture, it will be revealing to chart the development of apron

T H E MO NU ME NT A L I ZA TI O N OF E- G R O UPS

moldings over time (e.g., Hansen 1998: fig. 27), including those that contained modeled sculpture. CENTRAL LOWLANDS MONUMENTAL ARCHITECTURE AND SCULPTURE

The earliest Preclassic stucco architectural decorations to be recognized were the giant masks on the pyramid at Acanceh, drawn by Eduard Seler, who noted that the masks seemed “old” (alten) (Seler 1911: 390). Although the layout of the northern Lowland site is obscured by the modern town, many have noted that the Acanceh pyramid is very similar to ones in the Central Lowlands tradition (e.g., Uaxactun) (Kubler 1962: fig. 33). Around the same time, Raymond Merwin excavated a terminal Preclassic building with facade sculpture that held several burials at Holmul. With George Vaillant, Merwin created (posthumously) the first descriptions of early pottery and burial styles (Merwin and Vaillant 1932). But not until the Carnegie Project at Uaxactun did researchers become acutely aware of Preclassic Maya architectural sculpture (Hansen 1992: 27). This includes the simple rounded platforms described in Chapter 4 but also, most important, Structure E-VII-sub, a large stucco-covered radial pyramid with elaborate masks. Although the timing of the appearance of masks is unclear, the following section outlines the current evidence for the Late Preclassic explosion of mask making in E-Groups, perhaps the first locus for architectural sculpture at the time. Many sites in the Central Lowlands tradition mentioned in Chapter 3 likely have sculpture within E-Groups, but most have not been thoroughly excavated. Excavations at several sites, such as Lamanai, Yaxha, Caracol, Holtun, Cival, and El Mirador, that have uncovered masks in Triadic Groups are discussed in the following section. Next are the most well-reported examples of monumental sculpture within E-Groups to date. THE MONUMENTALIZATION OF E-GROUPS

Uaxactun E-VII-sub is a pyramid with a height of 8 meters and roughly 24 meters square at the base (Ricketson and Ricketson 1937: 72) that possibly supported a wooden superstructure, as evidenced by four postholes that had been plastered over in antiquity, as if “for a temporary purpose” (Ricketson and Ricketson 1937: 90). The building contains at least seven facade tiers with apron molding, some of which had been painted red (Ricketson and Ricketson 1937: figs. 34 and 35). Ricketson and Ricketson noted that the tiers of the facade can be divided into three different zones: the “lower zone,” “middle zone,” and “upper zone.” Each zone had differing dimensions of terracing,

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5.3. Ricketson and Ricketson’s reconstruction drawing of Uaxactun E-VII-sub east facade (after Ricketson and Ricketson 1937: fig. 34): (a) upper zone; (b) middle zone; (c) lower zone.

arrangement of stairs, and masks (Figure 5.3). The intersecting staircase that transected the three zones is a prime example of the way that builders broke up the paths of users to allow for many different ways of walking up and down the facade. Presumably, this augmented the opportunities for different ritual performance activities such as processions. The masks themselves are notable in their irregularity and asymmetry (Ricketson and Ricketson 1937: 76). Ricketson and Ricketson noted that the iconography of lower-zone masks was probably related to the “feathered serpent,” and their form is strikingly similar to the feathered-serpent balustrades at San Bartolo described later (Ricketson and Ricketson 1937: 78–80). In the middle zone, the masks are all different anthropomorphic representations, including some with T-shaped teeth, fangs, ears or earflares, and vegetal volutes. Presciently, Ricketson and Ricketson also noted that “the mask design may well be derived from an older ceramic technique applied to architectural decoration” (Ricketson and Ricketson 1937: 84), and since then, several examples of Middle Preclassic anthropomorphic portrait vessels have been recovered (e.g., K’o tomb) (Tomasic and Bozarth 2011). One important distinction between the middle- and upper-zone masks is that the upperzone images include clear modeled jade earspools, as seen broadly in stucco masks well into the Classic-period. The upper-zone masks also had traces of red paint, adorning enlarged nasal elements that extended over the mouth, which also may be the extended upper lip characteristic of the witz, or “mountain” (Stone and Zender 2011: 139). Schele and Mathews (1998: 180) interpreted the lower-zone masks as marking the temple as “Snake Mountain.” The masks could possibly be interpreted as different aspects of the witz, marking this pyramid as a symbolic mountain. Thus the tiered and painted facades may represent the faces on a karstic cliff, identifying the building mass as a mythological mountain, from which came food and water, as shown in the San Bartolo murals discussed later (Taube et al. 2010).

T H E MO NU ME NT A L I ZA TI O N OF E- G R O UPS

5.4. Mundo Perdido mask (Structure 5D-86) (redrawn by the author after Laporte and Fialko 1995: fig. 14).

Masks from the North Acropolis and Mundo Perdido group at Tikal subsequently confirmed the antiquity of stucco modeling and illustrated the wide diversity of themes represented in the masks in E-Groups (Coe 1990; Laporte and Fialko 1995). At the Mundo Perdido, unfortunately, the masks on the building equivalent to Uaxactun Structure E-VII sub were destroyed (Laporte and Fialko 1995: fig. 13). However, excavations in the central portion of the eastern platform of the Mundo Perdido E-Group yielded a mask and mural painting that suggest that the long platforms also held stucco sculpture (Laporte and Fialko 1995: fig. 14). One notable detail of the Mundo Perdido mask is the inclusion of possible Spondylus earspools that are surrounded by scalloped edges rather than simply round, as in the upper-zone masks at Uaxactun (Figure 5.4). These details could mark this particular mask as related to Chahk, the rain deity, as found on other Late Preclassic sculptures from the Lowlands (Stephen Houston, personal communication 2012). As mentioned in Chapter 4, the architectural masks in the San Bartolo E-Group are some of the earliest examples of sculpture in the Preclassic period (see Figure 4.2). The chronology of the Hunahpu structure is still unclear, and there exists the possibility that earlier phases of the sculpture exist within the building (Hurst 2009: 39). Furthermore, it is important to note that this is the only known instance in which an early E-Group was completely incorporated into a later platform in a single phase (Hurst 2009: 41); in other words, it is the only known E-Group that was discontinued as a plaza in the Late Preclassic (Maclellan 2009; Saturno and Rossi n.d.). Although the monumental sculpture was poorly preserved, the excavator reported finding two major works of art: a talud “with the representation of a skeletal serpent” and “a feathered serpent in modeled stucco,” along with a “mask with the representation of a solar deity” (translated from Beltrán 2008: 55–8). Hurst (2009: 39) further noted that

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“the masks on the north face appear to be different from those on the east face,” and “the stucco sculpture represents anthropomorphic deities and feathered serpents.” Several points deserve mention about the Late Preclassic proliferation of stucco masks as a medium for mythological and religious expression within the E-Groups. First, these masks all seem to appear in the same time period, within a few generations, roughly 300–1 BC. Second, they often appear in public ceremonial spaces, at places of high visibility to both the participants in the ceremonies and the viewers. In fact, the masks or the actual or natural characters they represent could have been considered active participants in whatever activities transpired in these Preclassic plazas. In this way, these masks did not adorn the building as an extrinsic decoration but rather communicated to the viewers that this pyramid was actually a mythological mountain place and could be considered charged with the same power as the natural phenomenon (Taube 1998). Furthermore, it is possible that monumentalized E-Groups with their deity heads pertain to Classicperiod concepts of “civilized spaces,” specifically because of their symbolism as the unification of the four directions through rectangular plazas and radial pyramids (Stephen Houston, personal communication 2012; see also Freidel, Schele, and Parker 1993: 128–31; Hanks 1990; Taube 2003). These E-Group masks were intimately linked to the institution of divine kingship, which had likely crystallized at the time of E-Group expansion. The area around El Mirador holds multiple sites with complex mask iconographic programs, which some have argued formed a large political unit. Systematic attempts to examine the implications of the El Mirador case study for the development of complex societies come from the original director of the Brigham Young University excavations at El Mirador, Ray Matheny (1986). Matheny originally drew on the political anthropology models of chiefdoms and states as espoused by twentiethcentury anthropology. His subsequent synthesis of the thirty years of research in the El Mirador area concluded, “[I]t is not clear whether El Mirador, as a Late Preclassic polity, may have represented a city-state, a territorial state, or even a regional state” and that “one of the reasons why this is difficult to assess is that little was learned about the hinterland during our investigations” (Matheny and Matheny 2011: 188). However, Matheny also notes The sharing over a wide area of what appear to be essentially standardized cultural elements, such as triadic architectural plans and architectural sculpture including large masks/portraits of deities, is certainly cause to suspect a close connection between sites and areas; however, there are still many unknowns and many sites have not been investigated. (Matheny and Matheny 2011: 188)

LATE PRECLAS SIC EL PALMAR E-GR OUP CHRONOLOGY

Clark and Hansen (2001: 483–4) interpret the wide sharing of cultural elements differently, however. They argue The available information actually indicates that many crucial architectural innovations, such as stone pyramidal structures and stucco masks, developed for the first time in the El Mirador basin – or at least they grew to be prominent there for the first time. The subsequent spread of these innovations indicates that the elite of the El Mirador basin was one of the most important Lowland cultural agents in the Late Preclassic, and it is even possible that they dominated other regions.

One possible criticism of both perspectives is the lack of perceived “standardization” that both interpretations draw on. Material or artistic standardization is far from a well-established fact, and a more likely scenario is that local settlements were expressing local views on wider concepts. The monumental architecture and sculpture of the Late Preclassic shows a wide diversity in both construction materials and iconographic content. Thus the more cautious interpretation that highlights a “close connection” rather than any “state” or other political institution is more likely given available evidence. Regardless, the site of El Mirador itself is definitely one of the most important sites to target for Preclassic research in the coming years. LATE PRECLASSIC EL PALMAR E-GROUP CHRONOLOGY

Excavations at the E-Group at El Palmar did not yield any stucco masks, but the buildings are contemporaries of E-VII-Sub at Uaxactun or Structure 5D-86 at Tikal. Evidence from extensive topographic survey in 2008 indicates the likely presence of large masks on either side of the primary eastern staircase through distinct, symmetric elevated areas facing the east; these areas remained unexcavated and preserved for future generations (Nelson and Doyle 2008). Architecture in the three final phases of the E-Group at El Palmar is consistent with the large-block construction and heavily stuccoed facades noted at many other sites. The earliest Late Preclassic building, E4-1-3rd, was cut or partially destroyed to construct the penultimate phase, E4-1-2nd, which possibly occurred between 200 and100 BC (Beta-285472). The practice of dismantling prior buildings in the Late Preclassic also existed in El Mirador and Tikal (Laporte and Fialko 1995: 50). At El Palmar, at least two major Late Preclassic expansion episodes showed up in excavations, along with a possible third phase that had been destroyed (Figure 5.5). These phases correspond to Structures 5C-54–4 and 5C-54–5 at Mundo Perdido Tikal (Laporte 1983: 1-11–1-14). One final detail that Laporte (translated from Laporte 1983: 1–45) notes is that this phase of the radial

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5.5. Exterior walls of El Palmar E4-1-2nd.

pyramid “was constructed on the same floor that was newly utilized for the construction of 54–5. It seems that 54–4 only had one floor, because there were no other traces encountered, except for a layer of lime on top of the same, but it does not represent another floor level but possibly only a remodeling or recovering of the existing one.” At El Palmar, the exterior walls of E4-1-2nd were composed of very largesized stones (approximately 0.50 meter cubed) and a cap of stucco of the highest quality, similar to some described during the Late Preclassic in Mundo Perdido

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(see Figure 5.5). In contrast to the comparable structure at Tikal, it seems that Structure E4-1-2nd had at least two floors. A stuccoed portion of a possible precursor to Structure E4-1-2nd was designated E4-1-3rd, but the scope of excavation did not allow for a clarification of the relationship between the two phases. The final enlargement of the radial pyramid (Structure E4-1-1st) involved a heavy investment in architectural fill (2-sigma Cal. 350–300 and 210–40 BC), primarily cut blocks and bajo mud. In the final phase of the E4-1 pyramid summit was a building with at least two narrow rooms (Figure 5.6). At least three floors in the eastern room represent perhaps a very long use for the building, with resurfacing occurring at least twice. The ceramic chronology possibly suggests that the final phase of use occurred in the Late Preclassic. The final modification of Structure E4-1-1st was the addition of a plaza floor that met the megalithic, stucco-covered staircase (Figure 5.7) in the Terminal Preclassic. Future architectural investigations will aim to ascertain architectural details of all phases, such as apron molding and stucco sculpture, as found elsewhere in Central Lowlands sites. Investigations in looters’ trenches in Structure E4-4, the long eastern platform, demonstrated at least three major phases of architectural investment and renovation. The penultimate phase of the long platform, dated to 390–190 BC (Beta-265817), was augmented greatly to include a central building that extended eastward from the original long platform, very similar to the Chuenphase modifications of the equivalent building at Mundo Perdido (400–200 BC) (Laporte and Fialko 1995: fig. 3). The best-preserved mask in the Mundo Perdido was found in the corresponding building (Structure 5D-86) in the Cauac-phase (ca. 150 BC–AD 200) architecture, which has feline features (Laporte and Fialko 1995: fig. 14). Although the final floors of the El Palmar platform correspond to the Late Preclassic, evidence exists of an intrusive event in the Early Classic with the deposit of Burial 1, to be discussed further in Chapter 6. CENTRAL LOWLANDS TRIADIC GROUPS

With more known examples than E-Groups, the Triadic Groups of the Central Lowlands sites have architectural sculpture that relates to several different themes of natural and astronomical phenomena. “Triadic Group” is a general term for groups of buildings that consist of a larger central building with two smaller buildings facing each other and positioned in a triangular arrangement vis-à-vis the larger building. Although not in the core area of the Central Lowlands, the sites of Lamanai and Cerros deserve first mention as some of the earliest known examples of Triadic Group sculpture. A large E-Group and at least two large Triadic Groups exist at Lamanai, and tunnels into the tallest

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5.6. Excavations at the summit of Structure E4-1-1: (a) north profile of EP-8B; (b) remains of summit building walls; (c) floor of summit building.

Triadic Group structure, Structure N9-56, revealed an elaborate stucco sculpture with “much of its painted decoration intact” (Pendergast 1981: 39). Another key set of stucco sculptures was discovered in four different Late Preclassic structures by a team led by David Freidel at Cerros on the coast of Belize (Freidel 1986; Robertson 1986; Scarborough 1991). Although with no

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5.7. Megalithic stair blocks covered in plaster, El Palmar Structure E4-1-1: (a) profile of stair and floor constructions; (b) photograph of stairs in situ; (c) block during removal.

E-Group (thus lacking evidence of participation in the Central Lowlands civic center tradition during the Middle Preclassic), Cerros does have a monumental core with two to three Triadic Groups, on or near which the excavators located the masks (Figure 5.8a). A compelling detail of the Cerros masks is that they include elaborate polychrome painting. The red, white, and cream paint scheme gives clues into the Late Preclassic Maya aesthetic because “red, black, and white are a high-contrast triad of colors, juxtaposed to dramatic visual and symbolic

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5.8. Monumental masks, Late Preclassic period. Comparison of masks from (a) Cerros (redrawn after Freidel 1981: fig. 7), (b) Cival (redrawn after Hurst 2009: fig. 22), (c) Holmul (redrawn after Estrada-Belli 2011: fig. 1.4), (d) San Bartolo (redrawn after Hurst 2009: fig. 61).

effect” (Houston et al. 2009: 72). The use of color pigments from nature, evoking symbolic forces and natural categories, seems to coincide with the crystallization of divine Maya kingship, suggesting that color played an important role in expressing leadership (Houston et al. 2009: 74). The iconographic content of the masks at Cerros has received ample attention in the literature on the development of Maya kingship in the Late Preclassic (Freidel 1979, 1981, 1985; Freidel and Schele 1988a, 1988b; Freidel, Schele, and Parker 1993; Reese 1996). Using Cerros and other examples, Freidel and Schele (1988a: 549) proposed [t]hat the institution of ahaw originated in the first century B.C.; that it was invented to accommodate severe contradictions in Maya society between an ethos of egalitarianism and an actual condition of flourishing elitism brought on by successful trade and interaction between the Lowland Maya and their hierarchically organized neighbors over the course of the Preclassic area.

Since these early studies, archaeologists do not necessarily view political institutions as “inventions” but rather as having been shaped by dynamic processes over time. Furthermore, as detailed in earlier chapters, the “ethos of egalitarianism” was a product of evolutionary thinking of archaeology up to the 1980s. However, the core of Freidel and Schele’s argument is sound – that the transformation of Maya ideology (and the institution of divine kingship) is

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best registered in the “sudden surge of construction in centers throughout the southern lowlands” (Freidel and Schele 1988a: 549). Early writing from San Bartolo suggests that the concept of the divine kingship was in place earlier than argued by Freidel and Schele, as early as 300–200 BC (Saturno et al. 2005), and I argue here that Triadic Groups played a primary role in this movement of monumentalization by early Late Preclassic leaders. The discovery of the masks of Cerros also prompted Freidel (1981: 206) to briefly engage with prevailing models of cultural evolution to interpret the evidence of “centralized ritual in public places and established social integration.” His basic argument was that shared symbols found within religious iconography were not epiphenomenal to the development of complex societies (as prior archaeologists had argued); rather, “the Late Preclassic lowlands witnessed the development of a shared reality of government in the context of an iconographically simplified and conceptually centralized religion” (Freidel 1981: 223). An important contribution of Freidel’s early analysis of Late Preclassic “state” development was the recognition that by the Late Preclassic “the structure of lowland Maya iconography and ideology was already well established,” and Late Classic Maya politics were “produced by the ramification of social stratification already established by Late Preclassic times” (Freidel 1981: 222, 226). The subsequent analysis of the Central Lowlands tradition has confirmed Freidel’s early assertions. Triadic Groups also form a large part of the monumental cores of the neighboring sites of Nakum, Yaxha, Caracol, and Naranjo. Tunnels in the Acropolis of Nakum have revealed Preclassic masks that are anthropomorphic in form but poorly preserved (Zralka, Koszkul, and Hermes 2008: 101–2). Excavations in the North Acropolis (a large Triadic Group) at Yaxha also revealed monumental stucco sculpture, and future investigations into the large Northeast Acropolis might reveal similar masks. Although more data are needed to ascertain the chronological development of several massive Triadic Groups at Naranjo, it is clear that the residents likely constructed early phases at the same time as they expanded the Middle Preclassic E-Group. Multiple masks have been excavated at the site of Caracol, Belize, including the large masks of Structure B5 that depict a “Water Lily Serpent” (Finamore and Houston 2009: 45; Ishihara, Taube, and Awe 2006). The smaller site of Holtun also has Triadic Group architecture with stucco masks, to be explored in the near future (Kovacevich 2010; Kovacevich et al. 2012). One key contribution to the study of Late Preclassic stucco sculpture has come from sites in the eastern Petén region around the site of Holmul, including the large site of Cival (Estrada-Belli 2006, 2011, 2012). As discussed in Chapter 4, Cival has a chronologically early E-Group and then became subsequently the focus of monumental construction of a Late Preclassic center between 350 BC and AD 100 (Estrada-Belli 2012: 209). The Cival masks

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(Figure 5.8b) are located on a Triadic Group that displaced the eastward view of the E-Group, essentially rendering it nonfunctional by blocking a view of the sunrise. As Estrada-Belli (2006: 65) notes, “[T]he Cival masks most closely resemble the lower masks on Cerros Structure 5C-2nd, which date to about 50 B.C.” Given that the masks from Cival date from slightly earlier (“no later than 100 BC”) (Estrada-Belli 2006: 65), the similarities in the masks from faraway sites from different generations underscore the need for a broader systematic study of the chronology and iconography of Late Preclassic monumental sculpture. Regardless of the precise meaning, it is clear that the Cival masks have imagery common in Late Preclassic art relating to the cycles of rain and maize harvesting (Estrada-Belli 2011). A large mask recently unearthed at Holmul (Estrada-Belli 2011: 92–102) is similar to masks discovered at Uaxactun in Group H (Laporte and Valdés 1993; Valdés 1991), which depict flowering mountains, possibly representing paradise (Taube 2004). The Holmul mask (Figure 5.8c) dates to the early part of the Late Preclassic period and marks Building B as a sacred mountain, perhaps of death (Estrada-Belli 2011: 95). Masks from centuries later at Tikal also have similar features of mountain iconography, demonstrating a strong continuity in these ideas into the Early Classic (Coe 1990). In fact, evidence from the Late Classic and ethnohistoric data show that Maya speakers have long equated pyramids with mountainous imagery (Vogt and Stuart 2005). San Bartolo, near Holmul and Uaxactun, also has Triadic Group masks. Excavators discovered damaged facade sculptures in the Ventanas Pyramid, although not explicitly Triadic (Saturno and Urquizú 2005: fig. 3), and a better-preserved mask excavated in the Jabalí Triadic Group (Figure 5.8d). Another mask in a possible buried Triadic Group is currently being investigated in the western part of the Central Lowlands at the site of El Achiotal (Barrientos Q) (Canuto, and Ponce 2012: fig. 3.27). The exposed mask shares many characteristics with sculpture from the Holmul and El Mirador regions (Acuña et al. 2010). Several sites within the region of El Mirador (Figure 5.9) have monumental stucco masks in Triadic Group architecture (Hansen 1992, 1998). The masks on Structure 1 at Nakbe (Figure 5.9a) have been interpreted as the principal bird deity, a common figure in Late Preclassic monumental sculpture from the highlands, although its meaning as facade element remains unclear (Hansen 1992; Houston and Inomata 2009: 89). At El Mirador, the excavator has argued that the “Jaguar Paw” sculpture (Figure 5.9b) is a giant exploded hieroglyphic name for a royal personage at the site, perhaps related to the subsequent dynastic tradition at Calakmul (Hansen 1990). The proliferation of Triadic Groups in the El Mirador region certainly means that more masks that hold more iconographic information await excavation and conservation; for example, the recently explored modest site of El Pesquero

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5.9. Comparison of masks from (a) Nakbe (redrawn after Hansen 1992: figs. 51 and 63), (b) El Mirador (redrawn after Hansen 1992: fig. 18), (c) El Pesquero (redrawn after Mejía et al. 2008: fig. 53).

(Figure 5.9c) was found to have elaborate polychrome masks (Mejía 2010). In southern Campeche, reconnaissance has also brought to light several large sites with Triadic Group architecture, including Yaxnohcah, Mucaancah, and others (Šprajc 2012). Other strong evidence of Late Preclassic big investments in monumentalization of E-Groups comes from Calakmul, Mexico, which contains massive Preclassic buildings that served as the foundation for major Classic-period temples (Carrasco Vargas 2003). Preclassic polychrome masks and friezes also adorn the interior of the massive Triadic Group Structure 2. Two important concluding points about Triadic Groups in the El Mirador region deserve mention. Even considering the variation in chronology among the massive groups at many Mirador region sites, the Triadic Group architecture seems to have been the primary mode of expression of political authority in a rather narrow time frame during the early Late Preclassic. More compelling is the distinct lack of massive monumental Triadic Group architecture like that found in the Late Preclassic built during the Classic-period. Obviously, there are plenty of instances of architecture arranged in a planar triangle in Classic constructions, but the Maya never used the volume of fills to achieve such a massive scale after the Preclassic period. In Chapter 6, I will explore the possible reasons for the cessation of such large-scale building, perhaps relating to an unsustainable monumentality related to Late Preclassic kingship.

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INVESTIGATIONS IN THE EL PALMAR TRIADIC GROUP

A test pit on the southeast corner of the Triadic Group at El Palmar in 2008 confirmed the initial suspicion that the group fit the pattern of Late Preclassic monumentality described at El Mirador and elsewhere. Subsequent excavations in 2009 uncovered more evidence of heavy investment in architecture; unit EP-2A-1 produced evidence of large stacked-block construction as the builders created a level surface out of the uneven bedrock (Figure 5.10). A superficial cleaning of a looters’

5.10. Photographs of stacked cut-block construction, El Palmar Triadic Group, unit EP-2A-1.

INVESTIGAT IONS IN THE EL PALMAR T RIADIC GROUP

5.11. Stucco pieces and painted-red apron molding, El Palmar Triadic Group.

trench in Structure E4-7 produced several pieces of modeled sculpture, including one with red paint that included flecks of specular hematite (Figure 5.11). The looters’ trench also exposed an earlier phase of the Triadic Group, including red-painted apron molding. Larger excavations in 2011 revealed more evidence of stucco sculpture and mural painting in the El Palmar Triadic Group. A horizontal exposure of the southern face of Structure E4-7 revealed a complex stairway and landing facade with a destroyed stucco frieze on the central axis. The dimensions of the frieze are similar to those of the El Mirador swimmer friezes, which also date to the same time period (Hansen, Suyuc Ley, and Mejía 2011; see also Doyle and Houston 2012). Explorations in 2011 also uncovered a looted tomb, probably from an Early Classic context, which I will describe further in Chapter 6 in the context of the reoccupation of El Palmar in the third to fourth centuries AD.

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TRIADIC GROUPS AND LATE PRECLASSIC SITE PLANNING

As mentioned earlier, the Triadic Groups are some of the most massive preColumbian structures ever built, implying that a great deal of planning and engineering went into their construction in the Late Preclassic period. Because the sites from the Central Lowlands cultural tradition share a similar inventory of architecture and measurement convention, it is necessary to examine the nature of site planning in these places and the implications of perceived planning for examining emerging political authority. I established in Chapter 4 that the sites with E-Group plazas were indicative of a shared social and political landscape and that people from outside the immediate site core must have contributed to the civic works. However, at present, it is still difficult for archaeologists to interpret the extent and diversity of Preclassic populations. Regardless, the ancient Maya settlements in the Yucatan Peninsula have long interested archaeologists studying site planning in the ancient world (e.g., Smith 2007). As such, the origins of such plans are surely to be found in the Central Lowlands sites as massive Late Preclassic undertakings. Evidence from El Palmar suggests that Preclassic Maya settlement planning consisted of two parallel considerations that were perhaps of equal importance to Late Preclassic authorities: planar geometry and astronomical alignment. During the monumentalization of E-Group plazas that were the centers of Middle Preclassic civic life, Late Preclassic populations expanded large civic plazas by laying out a desired rectangle (very possibly of “golden” proportions, discussed later) and used the original rectangle’s dimensions as a foundation for large-scale enlargements across sites. Although the astronomical orientation of structures was very important to the ancient Maya, here I focus on the geometric aspects, which have been underemphasized in prior research into Preclassic planning. PRIOR RESEARCH ON MAYA SITE PLANNING

Late Preclassic planning research builds from extensive discussions of Classic Maya “urban” planning that have mainly centered on the empirical evidence for the embedding of cosmic principles in monumental architectural cores (Ashmore 1991, 2005; Ashmore and Sabloff 2002, 2003; Schele and Mathews 1998; Smith 2005, 2007, 2010a, 2010b, 2010c; Šprajc 2005, 2009). Specifically addressing the Preclassic case, a recent study of early Maya planning at El Mirador argues that astronomical alignments based on sunrise observations from the summits of major buildings formed a primary role in guiding Late Preclassic construction (Šprajc, Morales Aguilar, and Hansen 2009: 86). Evidence from El Palmar and other sites builds on the alignment hypothesis in order to take into account the geometric measurement and placement of

T R I A DI C GR O UP AN D PR E CLA S S I C MAY A SI T E P L A N NI N G

foundational platforms that bounded the spaces for gathering and walking (Doyle 2013). Here analysis focuses on evidence for geometric proportions used in two sites during the Late Preclassic in order to create a model to be tested as more information becomes available about early Maya planning. THE TRIADIC GROUP AND PRECLASSIC MAYA SITE PLANNING

Populations leveled natural bedrock during the Middle Preclassic period (ca. 1000–300 BC) to construct large E-Group plazas for civic spaces at many Maya centers like El Palmar (Estrada-Belli 2011: 74, 2012: 207). As mentioned in Chapter 4, throughout the entire Preclassic period, E-Group plazas were central spaces, integral to community life throughout the Maya Lowlands (Aimers and Rice 2006: 82; Chase and Chase 1995: 100), and analysis proceeds under the premise that new plans began with these early important plazas in mind (Estrada-Belli 2011: 71–2). Relevant to Late Preclassic planning, many of the E-Group plazas are almost identical in width, and there is ample evidence that builders took special care to preserve the footprint of the plazas over time (see Chapter 4). The widths of these plazas correspond to the final phase of building, which, at most of these sites with E-Groups, is the end of the Late Preclassic period (ca. AD 1 –250). Excavations confirmed that the residents of El Palmar made a major investment in site-wide planning during the Late Preclassic period, and two radiocarbon dates place the final implementation of the plan well before AD 1 ( Doyle 2012; Doyle et al. 2011). Accelerator mass spectrometry (AMS) dates on two charcoal samples from sealed construction fills in the E-Group plaza at El Palmar yielded uncalibrated dates of (1) 2120 ± 40 BP (Beta-285472, 350–300 and 210–40 BC; 2-sigma [95% probability] calibrated range) and (2) 2230 ± 40 BP (Beta-265817, 390–190 BC; 2-sigma [95% probability] calibrated range) (Doyle 2012: table 1). Therefore, the final constructions defining the width of the El Palmar E-Group plaza fall firmly within the early Late Preclassic period (ca. 300–100 BC). Considering the perceived similarities in plaza dimensions shared across the region, the conventions visible at El Palmar should provide key insight into the minds of ancient planners and builders during that time. Because there is no major Classic-period construction at El Palmar, I argue that the present dimensions and alignments are the result of the original implementation of a widespread plan in the Late Preclassic period. The final footprint of the El Palmar E-Group plaza as revealed by topographic elevation of the site is a rectangle of approximately 48.5 by 78.5 meters. The builders could have constructed this rectangle using a simple system of stakes and cords: first, by laying out a square of the desired plaza width, then by staking a cord on the midpoint of the lower edge of the square, and then by stretching the cord to the upper right corner of the square and swinging the

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5.12. (a) El Palmar site map with plaza dimensions overlaid on major structures: (b) Triadic Group; (c) Structure E4-5; (d) Structure E5-5; (e) Platform E5-7; (f) South Group.

length clockwise until it overlay the original square edge, marking the new corner of the desired rectangle. These dimensions are almost exactly in proportion with what is known as a “golden rectangle” (or φ, 1 unit by 1.618 units), which would be 48.5 by 78.43 meters. Past studies have recorded other instances of the golden rectangle and similar geometry in ancient architecture, art, and settlement patterns in the Maya area (Brown and Witschey 2003; Powell 2010; Schele and Mathews 1998: 34–6). When tested across the site, the proposed rectangle’s proportions coincide with the size of the bases of many major structures at El Palmar (Figure 5.12). For example, the Triadic Group measures approximately 100 by 160 meters,

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or double the footprint of the E-Group plaza, and residential Platform E5-7 covers almost the same area as the original plaza. Planners possibly divided the original width of the plaza to create Structures E4-5 and E5-5, which measure one-third and one-eighth of the original plaza’s area, respectively. Evidence of expanding the dimensions proportionally also occurs in the Southern Group, which measures around 100 by 120 meters, or two times the width and 1.5 times the length of the template plaza. These basal dimensions would have been an integral part of the planning process as they both defined the extent of platform expansion and formed the edges of open thoroughfares, which would have guided residents through the buildings and social spaces. Therefore, use of the original plaza proportions to expand platforms during the Late Preclassic strongly suggests that one vision, based on an archetypal rectangle divided into similar equal parts, served to guide the planning and building of the final phase of the civic center of El Palmar. Recent synthetic work addressing over thirty years of research at El Mirador suggests that the plaza that is comparable to the E-Group at El Palmar in the western part of the site, named the “El Leon Group,” was a central focus of early building (Matheny and Matheny 2011: 177). The rectangular plaza measures approximately 50 by 125 meters, much longer on its north-south axis than the plaza at El Palmar. Nonetheless, using the model argued for El Palmar, replication of the El Leon rectangle’s dimensions over several complexes in the central precinct of El Mirador supports the hypothesis that the plaza dimensions served as a pivotal tool for El Mirador planners (Figure 5.13). Several major constructions, including nearby plaza spaces, correspond to multiples or fractions of the approximate proportions of the proposed prototype, suggesting the ultimate expansion of these complexes formed part of a unified plan. Notably, the basal platforms of both the El Tigre and La Danta pyramids, the largest buildings at the site, measure very close to 125 meters on their east-west axis, or 2.5 times the El Leon plaza width, and approximately 125 meters on their north-south axis, the El Leon plaza length (or, alternatively, the length of the El Leon plaza squared). Several pyramids have footprints of identical square size equaling the 50-meter width of the El Leon plaza area: possibly two in the Central Acropolis and three in the Tecolote Group. Other large groups, such as the Las Chicharras Group and the Tres Micos Group, conform to 2.5 times and twice the footprint of the El Leon plaza, respectively. However, several complexes, such as the Monos complex, do not reflect the same proportions or cardinal alignments. Perhaps, then, according to the hypothesis, these structures were built at a different time under a different plan, as others have noted (Howell and Evans Copeland 1989: 59; Šprajc, Morales Aguilar, and Hansen 2009: 86).

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5.13. Central El Mirador with El Leon Group plaza highlighted (map from Doyle 2013). (Left inset) Detail of monumental central precinct, including (a) El Leon pyramid and plaza; (b) El Tigre Group; (c) Las Chicharras Group; (d) Central Acropolis; (e) Tecolote Group; (f) Tres Micos Group; (g) Monos Group. (Right inset) detail of La Danta Group.

Unlike El Palmar and El Mirador, Tikal and Uaxactun both have considerable numbers of later buildings that obscure the Late Preclassic city plans. Some evidence exists relevant to the proposed model, as excavations at Tikal and Uaxactun have demonstrated very early monumental activity in the form of the same E-Group plazas (Laporte and Fialko 1995; Ricketson and Ricketson 1937). Furthermore, excavators noted at the North Acropolis of Tikal that, over time, the platform axes shifted, suggesting that Late Preclassic planning

MEANINGS OF LATE PRECLASSIC SITE PLANNING

had overridden earlier constructions and imposed new dimensional standards (Coe 1990). Unfortunately, the sheer number of later buildings at Tikal precludes a wider study of the Late Preclassic plan geometry at present. The same is true for Uaxactun, where even in Group E, Classic-period constructions do not permit thorough analysis. However, the pattern noted at El Palmar and El Mirador may be considered a predictive model for Late Preclassic Maya site planning to be tested in the future. In practice, the model could lead to broader discussions of idiosyncratic (i.e., unique to each site) proportions used in Maya planning. As a preliminary test, a repetition of the methods for El Palmar and El Mirador at Tikal does, however, show certain correlations with wide platforms and spaces that presumably would have been part of the Late Preclassic expansion of the settlement (Figure 5.14). The same is true also for the large city of Calakmul, wherein the proportions of the central plaza seem to repeat for basal platforms and other plaza spaces in the same fashion. Yaxha, too, exhibits the proposed model. It is possible that a wider study might show major investments in Preclassic architectural platforms and seem to proportionally lay out plans based on the E-Group plaza. MEANINGS OF LATE PRECLASSIC SITE PLANNING

Assessing the meanings of geometric planning in the Late Preclassic is a speculative exercise. However, as Stephen Houston (personal communication 2012) pointed out to me, plazas as rectangular spaces recall milpa cultivated fields; this likely pertains to numerous agricultural tropes found in explicit statements of kingly actions in the Classic-period Maya texts and imagery. As mentioned earlier, environmental evidence suggests that Late Preclassic farmers deforested areas for what was likely widespread milpa agriculture. Thus perhaps in the Late Preclassic period the planning of the E-Group plazas as rectangles (whether “golden” or not) possibly represented the recreation of parts of the vital cycles of farming. Ample ethnographic evidence from the colonial and modern periods supports the hypothesis that these dimensions pertain to local sizes for agricultural spaces. Diego de Landa notes the use of cords in colonial Yucatan to measure family milpa plots, similar to the proposed method of plaza construction, although Tozzer notes a discrepancy in the size of exact measurements (Tozzer 1941: 96). Cultivation and household plots in highland Chiapas, Mexico, and the Huehuetenango Department of Guatemala also required the measuring of rectangular or square plots of land with a system of rods and cords (Berlin, Breedlove, and Raven 1974: 141; Stadelman 1941: 95). Among the Q’eqchi’ speakers of Guatemala, the unit of one “cord” (cuerda) comprised thirteen “armspans” (brazadas) and

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5.14. Other sites with possible proportional planning in the Late Preclassic: (a) Tikal; (b) Yaxha; (c) Calakmul.

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measured approximately 23.25 meters, or about half the proposed width of the original plazas in the case studies presented here (Wilson 1972: 331). Furthermore, “doubling over” the measuring cords into one-half or onefourth size was a common Q’eqchi’ method to produce a subdivided field with distinct square crop plots (Wilson 1972: 121). Such evidence demonstrates the continuity of constructing squares or rectangles with systems of cords to create living or working spaces. The documented use of “armspans” as a basic unit of measurement is particularly suggestive, as perhaps Late Preclassic rulers set idiosyncratic lengths based on their own bodies for use in building and planning (see Clark 2004). Constructing squares or rectangles also had cosmological and moral implications for the ancient Maya. Staking out and squaring off of the milpa farmland (see Hanks 1990: 355–6) is similar to the description of the creation of the earthly realm in the Quiché Maya creation story, the Popol Vuh, where human space is bound by “its four cornerings, its four sidings, its measurings, its four stakings, its doubling over cord measurement, its stretching cord measurement” (Christenson 2007a: 65, 2007b: 3). Furthermore, Karl Taube (2003: 465) notes that “the idealized four-sided town model defines a human and moral community” and that “making milpa, houses, art, and other efforts of construction [is an] inherently good and ethically correct human act” for the Maya. Additionally, a central theme in Late Preclassic Maya monumental sculpture and painting is the supernatural propagation of maize and the symbolic division of the world into four quarters (Estrada-Belli 2011; Saturno et al. 2005; Taube 2009; Taube et al. 2010). Agricultural interpretations of the planning process complement the conclusions of the alignment study at El Mirador that some sunrise dates recorded in architectural lines were related to marking important times of the year for agriculture (Šprajc, Morales Aguilar, and Hansen 2009: 91). The E-Group and Triadic Groups association with Late Preclassic planning has been noted in prior studies (e.g., Flores Esquivel 2010), but there is little regularity on the relationship between the two architectural types. Furthermore, there is no common agreement in orientation between Triadic Groups, even within a single site (Velásquez 2012, 2014; Mejía and Velásquez Fergusson 2012). For example, at El Mirador, several Triadic Groups face each other or north, but a southern-facing Triadic Group does not exist at the site. A study of the orientations of Triadic Groups does not immediately illuminate a pattern in distribution, but it could be a fruitful object of future studies. Clearly, these and other sites from the Central Lowlands cultural tradition share a similar inventory of architecture and measurement convention; however, no two E-Groups or Triadic Groups are alike. The implications of the similar techniques riddled with dimensional idiosyncrasies noted earlier should be underscored.

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Many consider the regularities of planning and expansion to be indirect evidence of emerging political authorities (see Hansen 1998; McAnany 2010; Ringle 1999). In fact, Richard Hansen and colleagues in public presentations have argued that El Mirador was a Late Preclassic capital of sorts, a primus inter pares that exerted political influence over the Lowlands. A review of the available archaeological evidence, however, leads to the conclusion that during the Late Preclassic, with respect to architectural and material evidence, no one site or group of sites held sway over others. In other words, Late Preclassic emerging dynasts drew their authority from generations of inherited practices in their own, locally constructed ritual spaces. At present, however, it is still difficult for archaeologists to interpret the extent and diversity of Preclassic populations and thus the extent of any perceived boundaries between polities. Because of the geographic proximity of El Palmar and Tikal, these two Middle and Late Preclassic communities could serve in the future to clarify the origins of Maya politics. In the phases after the final expansion of the radial pyramids at Tikal and El Palmar, we can observe distinct changes in the engagement of the residents with their respective E-Groups. Most notably, the lack of any superstructure on the summit of Mundo Perdido’s radial pyramid, Structure 5C-54–5, stands in clear contrast to the findings from El Palmar of floor resurfacings and standing masonry walls. As mentioned earlier, residents constructed the main building at the summit of Structure E4-1 during the Preclassic period but resurfaced the floor at least twice in later time periods. At Uaxactun, there seems to be a third type of use for the summit of the E-Group pyramid, because Ricketson and Ricketson (1937: 40) reported four postholes on the summit of E-VII-Sub, presumably for a perishable superstructure. In both cases, it is clear that access from the eastern plaza was of paramount importance because only the eastern staircase reached the summit of 5C-54. However, the staircases on each side are an oft-overlooked medium of expression; in deciding how one should travel from the plaza floor to the top of a pyramidal building and back down again, the builders opted to break up the vertical movement by adding a multiplicity of access routes, interrupted by sculptural friezes or masks, best seen in the fully exposed Late Preclassic E-VII-sub at Uaxactun. A final, parallel social action is evident in the remains of both the El Palmar and Tikal E-Groups: that of reuse of the final Late Preclassic phase. As Laporte (translated from 1983:1-13–1-14) noted: On top of the remains of 54-5, as well as on top of the upper floor of the High Plaza, abundant ceramic material belonging to the Early and Late Classic was collected. This is important because it demonstrates that although there were no longer building episodes during the Late Classic, Structure 5C-54 continued playing a primordial and functional role within the religious context of Tikal.

MEANINGS OF LATE PRECLASSIC SITE PLANNING

5.15. El Palmar Structure E4-4 cache plates.

Similarly, excavations on the east-west axis on the eastern pyramid–plaza interface at El Palmar recovered a nearly complete Cubierta Impressed pot associated with a typically Early Classic chert biface (Zachary Hruby, personal communication 2011). Leaving offerings implies the cessation of procession and the lack of a need for extensive foot traffic. More information about the Late to Terminal Preclassic population’s engagement with the E-Group comes from the eastern platform, Structure E4-4. At least once after the final expansion of the group dating to approximately 390–190 BC (2-sigma calculation), builders added a staircase on the western side of the platform. An excavation unit produced two tetrapod cache plates produced with a reddish paste and a cream slip classified as part of the Flor Group (Figure 5.15). Although Culbert (1993, 1999) classifies similar tetrapod plates at Tikal as belonging to Cimi phase, between AD 150 and 250, others (Brady et al. 1998) argue that these smaller mammiforms could occur in the Lowlands between 100–50 BC and AD 50–100 (Takeshi Inomata, personal communication 2013). Aside from a prismatic obsidian blade that had been intentionally broken, the plates did not contain any nonperishable associated offerings, but perhaps residue analysis of the differentially colored soil from the two plates will shed further light on this event. This offering represents one of the final construction-related rituals performed at El Palmar in the end of the Late Preclassic. Because very few remains from the Terminal Preclassic were found at El Palmar outside of superficial contexts, it is difficult to interpret who was

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living at the site toward the end of the Late Preclassic, dedicating the plates and building the final staircase to the eastern E-Group platform. Further evidence for a continuous occupation comes from the several modifications made by residents after the Late Preclassic boom, suggesting a possible reoccupation at a later date than the final staircase. Unlike post–AD 150 modifications at nearby E-Groups at Uaxactun and Tikal, the El Palmar E-Group exhibits small, low platforms with no apparent comparisons in the region. Two lines of evidence indicate that these platforms were built later than the staircase-building event: (1) an intrusive burial on the eastwest axis of Structure E4-4 of an individual with Early Classic ceramics of the Balanza and possibly Dos Arroyos polychrome groups (see Doyle and Matute Rodríguez 2010: 213–14; Scherer 2010: 328–9), and (2) surface collections near the platforms that included Early Classic materials, the most diagnostic of which was a miniature eccentric made out of green obsidian, which likely came from the Pachuca source near Teotihuacan (Zachary Hruby, personal communication 2010) and is common in the Early Classic.

Implications The evidence from El Palmar contributes to the study of ancient Maya site planning and political authority by supporting two main hypotheses: (1) builders used a technique of measurement involving the construction of a desired rectangle as the expansion of buildings around the main plaza in Late Preclassic Maya civic centers, and (2) the builders then replicated the dimensions or proportions of the main plaza throughout the site to create the boundaries for basal platforms. Research at El Palmar discussed here thus supports claims that planar geometry and specific proportions played a major role in Late Preclassic Maya planning, also noted briefly at other sites (EstradaBelli 2011: 71–2). The El Leon plaza at El Mirador provides some positive correlation with the El Palmar planning model, although some contradictory evidence could suggest different plans with different primary proportions or orientations over time. Results are perhaps emblematic of a larger pattern, which will complement existing archaeoastronomical studies and future excavations in Late Preclassic centers in the region. Ethnographic evidence provides a window into possible meanings of planning with planar geometry and similar proportions, as the ancient Maya gave order to the earthly realm. More broadly, the current report approaches a more thorough understanding of the multiplicity of conventions that influenced decisions made by emerging political authorities in the ancient world in order to structure their built environment.

MEANINGS OF LATE PRECLASSIC SITE PLANNING

Laporte and Fialko (translated from 1995: 56; see also Aimers and Rice 2006: 90–2) also brought up a major question pertaining to the shelf life of E-Groups in the Classic-period: What phenomenon influenced the fact that the builders no longer practiced major reconstructions on the Great Pyramid? One interesting option is that the ritual associated with the E-Groups fell into disuse, because of the advent of new ceremonies related to the k’atun endings (Coggins 1980). However, some of the findings made in the E-Group of Mundo Perdido indicate that ritual aspects related to the ancient solar cult certainly persisted.

In the following discussion I briefly want to examine the engagement of populations with these constructions after the major expansion in the Late Preclassic to address the question, Why did it become undesirable to continue building big in E-Groups? The evidence from El Palmar highlights a significant shift in building practices after the Late Preclassic: at some point, the residents only desired or only had the resources to refurbish, resurface, or make minor changes, such as add a new staircase. This clearly contrasts with the two prior major investments in Structures E4-1-2nd and E4-1-1st. I want to return to the observation at Mundo Perdido that the penultimate phase of the pyramid only existed with one phase of the plaza floor. One obvious interpretation of this is that the plaza floor (the corresponding layer at El Palmar was of considerable thickness) simply lasted for many generations without need to resurface. A second possibility is that a shift in the local political authority necessitated the expansion of the building rather than modification of Structure 5C-54. Laporte and Fialko (translated from 1993: 37–8; see also Laporte and Fialko 1995: 49) bring up another suggestive possibility: The new rebuilding of the pyramid in Chuen times, 5C-54-3 and the 5D-84/88-3 platform indicate the cyclic completion of a pre-established ritual, perhaps since Eb, according to which is seen the increase and definition of determined architectural features: the large radial pyramid 5C-54-3 presents more volume including demarcated masks for auxiliary staircases. The deposition of Burials PNT-001 and PNT-004 is associated with this phase, the first of which was associated with the east-west axis of the pyramid and the second below 5C-54-Sub 1.

Given the evidence for similar phasing over the Preclassic period at two neighboring E-Groups, it is highly possible that the periodic renewal of E-Groups was part of grander cycles of ritual and expansion. Thus the evidence of extensive planning, although probably at the hands of a ruler or group of powerful people at Tikal and El Palmar, might have been mandated by a greater belief in ritual cycles that was shared across the Lowland Maya Late Preclassic.

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However, if such cycles dictated action in the Preclassic, it is clear that both at Mundo Perdido and El Palmar the Terminal Preclassic and Early Classic actions did not conform to such periodic volume expansions. Laporte (translated from 1997: 346) sums up his interpretation of the evidence: The apparent lack of renovation in the Late Classic may reflect different causes: from the partial abandonment of the E-Group to the constructive aspect itself that avoided the potential accretion again of the size of the monument. This abandonment in the function of such an important building in the history of Tikal has been considered as a clear index of the transformation of an ancient concept. This action could have been in accordance with the reorganization, if not the abandonment, of a ritual linked principally to an ancient solar cult.

I would argue that Triadic architecture became the new centers of communal construction, thus the focus of monumental building efforts, toward the end of the Late Preclassic (MacLellan 2009; Saturno and Rossi n.d.). Thus they supplanted the E-Group axis as the central point on the landscape with which the communities identified. At Tikal, of course, major burials of dynastic founders occurred in the Late Preclassic, not at Mundo Perdido, but at the North Acropolis, which is an early example of the Triadic arrangement (Coe 1990; see Hansen 1998; Velásquez 2012, 2014). The North Acropolis, and not the Mundo Perdido E-Group, remained a major focus of monumental buildings throughout the Classic-period. Evidence from El Palmar also supports the hypothesis that Triadic Groups supplanted E-Groups as central spatial and conceptual axes. Probably during the fourth century, a group of residents constructed a small structure containing what was likely the tomb of an important individual. Looters pierced the small structure in the middle of the Triadic Group plaza, Structure E5-1, and encountered a sizable tomb (approximately 1 by 3 meters) with an intact vaulted ceiling. The tomb was oriented north-south and had been looted in the late twentieth century. Found inside were only a few fragments of what was likely a jade and shell mosaic mask (probably part of a pectoral or belt). The placement of the small burial temple (slightly askew from the final central axis of the largest pyramid in the Triadic Group), the construction of the tomb and subsequent superstructure, and the meager artifacts left by the looters all suggest an Early Classic date. During the fourth century in the region, many similar tombs, including an intact tomb found at El Zotz (Román and Newman 2010) and looted tombs found at Bejucal (Garrison et al. 2012), contained important royal individuals, although these chambers lay below larger-scale pyramids. Regardless of the exact timing of this entombment, the placement of the burial shows a distinct intent to reconnect with the major alignments of the

MONUMENTAL E-GR OUPS: U NDER WHOSE AUTHORITY?

Preclassic buildings, possibly as a nod to their ancestral connection with El Palmar. Also, the fact that the builders placed the tomb and its small building on the east-west axis of the Triadic Group and not on the east-west axis of the E-Group, as builders had done in the Early Classic at Tikal (Laporte and Fialko 1993, 1995), is significant. A suggestive interpretation of the entombment would be that the Early Classic peoples from near El Palmar sought to return the body of a nobleperson to an important ancestral center. Perhaps the reoccupants of El Palmar were familiar only with the Late Preclassic concept of center, as it followed Late Preclassic rulers in performances in the newly erected Triadic Groups. MONUMENTAL E-GROUPS: UNDER WHOSE AUTHORITY?

As described in Chapter 4, the evidence for political authority in Middle Preclassic E-Groups is equivocal because little imagery or materials explicitly related to leadership exists to date. Previous interpretations of ritual behavior and astronomical observations do not explain fully the radical increase in scale and durability of construction materials during the Late Preclassic. As many have pointed out, the construction of such large buildings for the first time in the Lowlands implies both a sophisticated labor organization and monumental intent – but which groups or individuals could have been supervising authorities? It is clear that Classic Maya divine kingship – as attested to by epigraphic, archaeological, and ethnohistoric scholarship – has its roots in the Preclassic period (e.g., Freidel and Schele 1988a; Saturno et al. 2006; Taube et al. 2010). The identification of a common royal diadem related to maize sprouts in both Middle Preclassic “Olmec” imagery and Late Preclassic Maya imagery strongly supported claims that divine Maya kingship was not solely a Classic experience (e.g., Fields 1986; Freidel and Schele 1988b). With discovery of the San Bartolo murals, dated to around 100 BC, came further evidence of accession, sophisticated rituals relating to autosacrifice and the cardinal directions, and possibly kingship (Taube et al. 2010). The artistic skill and iconographic content of these murals are extraordinary and imply an even more ancient cultural tradition yet to be discovered for Middle Preclassic times. Several themes emerge from the murals, including the procuring of water and sustenance from a mythological mountain, the division of the world into four quarters and a center, and the divine sanctioning of royal accession or calendrical rites (for a discussion of similar themes on Late Preclassic artwork at Uaxactun and Cerros, see Freidel, Schele, and Parker 1993). The north wall of the San Bartolo murals shows a complex scene that “concerns the taking of water and sustenance out of Flower Mountain,” involving a group of fourteen individuals, including the Maize God and possibly his wife (Saturno et al. 2005: 31). The western portion of the north

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wall is not well understood but basically portrays “a large supernatural being stand[ing] before a cleft gourd and five infants” (Saturno et al. 2005: 8). The infants themselves are bizarre in their symmetric asymmetry because they are emerging in the four directions and the center from a gourd-like womb. The larger being has a serpent face and gestures toward the birthing gourd, as if overseeing the event (Saturno et al. 2005: 11). The main narrative of the north wall involves a group of eight individuals walking on the back of a plumed serpent and taking tamales and a bottle gourd full of water out of a sentient witz mountain (Saturno et al. 2005: 14–41). The mountain itself is “the source of life, water and sustenance” and perhaps is the image of “an ancestral cave of origin” (Saturno et al. 2005: 48). This scene also possibly shows a very early scene in which the Maya demonstrated mastery over the wilderness in order to grow maize, clearly delineating the ordered procession of individuals over the disordered face of the mountain (Taube 2003). A major part of the “ordered” world created by the Preclassic Maya was the division of space into four corners and a center (see Coggins 1980; Taube 1998, 2005). Coupled with the quadripartite babies mentioned earlier, the murals on the west wall of Las Pinturas show four youths performing autosacrifice in front of four trees with four celestial birds perched on top. According to Taube et al. (2010: 83–4): Their association with the four directions concerns a basic duty of kings, the establishment and maintenance of cosmos and territory. In addition, the explicitly shown rites of penis perforation probably mark the scenes as acts of engendering the world quarters and their associated meanings – an effort of painful sacrifice that would serve, no doubt, as a powerful charter for the duties of kingship in the Late Preclassic” (Taube et al.)

The artists of the San Bartolo West Wall directly related the kingly duties of division of the earthly realm into four quarters to the cycle of the maize god from his watery birth to his death and his rebirth from the turtle earth. Furthermore, the two scenes of accession in which rulers are presented with royal headdresses underscore “the widespread identification of the ruler with maize, not only as a personification of the pivotal axis mundi, but also as the provider of economic stability, wealth, and power” (Taube et al. 2010: 84).

Implications for Elite Ritual and the Community Centrality The monumental spaces depicted in the murals were the scenes of mythological events, perhaps even actual rituals as the physical built environment served as otherworldly locations, marked by common supernatural imagery. Thus, apart from the incomparable narrative imagery of mythological figures, the murals

MONUMENTAL E-GR OUPS: U NDER WHOSE AUTHORITY?

perhaps give clues into what types of rituals would have actually taken place in these early plazas and monumentalized spaces. In other words, these scenes can be considered the telling of story of the ideal authorization and subjectivity in the Late Preclassic Maya world. Although it is clear that the events narrated in the murals took place in otherworldly places, perhaps one can extrapolate actual ceremony from the images. Perhaps the scene on the north wall suggests that actual earthly processions to, from, and around the witz of the E-Group radial pyramid. One could easily imagine such a reenactment of the procession involving impersonations of the maize god, the corn maidens, and the attendants carrying bundles. One interesting aspect of the north wall scene is the equal number of men and women in the procession: “[T]he eight people atop the plumed serpent are probably ancestral couples, the maize god with his mate, and three pairs of young men and women” (Saturno et al. 2005: 50). Does this indicate the elite projection of an ideal society – half men, half women, with the maize god as the producer of sustenance? These scenes perhaps provide an added dimension to prior interpretations of E-Group ritual, intimately linked with calendrical cycles and probably agricultural duties (Aimers and Rice 2006). Arguments for complex rituals involving people dancing in the guise of gods in these Preclassic plazas, as well attested in the Classic-period, also gain credence from the San Bartolo murals. All the evidence points to a confluence of monumental expansion of E-Groups, which are the original physical and symbolic centers of the community, and elite rituals at the community center. It is possible that over generations of repeated rituals at the E-Group center, the population of Late Preclassic centers began to understand the center not as a central point on the landscape, as evidenced by dedicatory offerings from the Middle Preclassic period, but rather, a social transfer of the center occurred in which the populations gradually understood the performers of rituals to contain the symbolic centrality of the community. Through performance at the exact center of the founded community, the authorities imbued themselves with the centrality formerly reserved for the E-Group plazas themselves. Rather than dedicating jade to forces in the natural world as in the Middle Preclassic, the rulers began to place it on their bodies to mark them as the living centers (Taube 1998, 2005: 29). Presumably ritual performances would reinforce the narrative of new centrality, as elite families and powerful individuals became the authorities of last resort in the freshly monumentalized E-Group communities. Two more lines of evidence from the Late Preclassic highlight the crystallization of dynastic elite families. First, many Late Preclassic residential platforms, including at least four at El Palmar, exhibit the same form as alleged elite “compounds” at many other Middle and Late Preclassic sites (Clark and

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Hansen 2001; Hendon 1999). Investigations in Platform E5-7 at El Palmar revealed several platforms that likely served as the foundations for elite Late Preclassic households. Furthermore, I hypothesize that the centrality of the platform in the final Late Preclassic layout of El Palmar perhaps reflects that the residents of this particular compound were very important to the community. It is possible that such open compounds are earlier forms of the “palaces” of the Classic-period (Stephen Houston, personal communication 2012), albeit without evidence of complex living spaces and courtyards. Evidence that Early Classic residents reoccupied this platform, discussed in Chapter 6, further underscores that such compounds were ideal locations for living spaces. Second, many elite ritual caches and burials appear widely in Late Preclassic E-Groups, especially noted at Calakmul, Mexico, Caracol, Belize, and Tikal, Guatemala (Carrasco Vargas 1999; Chase and Chase 1995: 95; Laporte and Fialko 1995). CONCLUSIONS: MOTIVATIONS FOR AND EFFECTS OF MAYA MONUMENTALIZATION

A final pertinent detail of the San Bartolo E-Group within the Las Pinturas complex deserves mention. The group contains what seems to be a ball court alley on the eastern face of the radial pyramid (Hurst 2009; Saturno and Rossi n.d.; Urquizú and Saturno 2008). The radial pyramid itself serves as the western ball court wall, with the eastern wall built inside the plaza, complete with a ball court marker actually painted in the center of the ball court alley (Figure 5.16). Others have noted the association of ball courts with E-Groups

Ball court

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5m

5.16. San Bartolo E-Group (drawings by Boris Beltran and Heather Hurst; redrawn after Hurst 2009: figs. 10 and 11).

CONCLUSIONS

(Aimers and Rice 2006: 89–90), but never has one this early been found associated directly within the E-Group plaza itself. The San Bartolo ball court E-Group harkens back to the proposed interpretations of gathering and possible production and exchange detailed in Chapter 4; perhaps after some generations of use for various daily or ceremonial activities, the E-Groups became locales for performance, gaming, and other forms of elite interaction known from later periods. The ball court could have been the scene of public spectacles performed by the ancestors of the very rulers shown in the accession scenes on the western wall of the murals (Taube et al. 2010: 84). Even in the non–ball court E-Groups, large amounts of people would have had a clear view of what occurred on top of the masonry platforms or later pyramids. In short, these plazas were giant performance spaces for emerging dynastic rulers, possibly the first of their kind in the Maya Lowlands (Inomata 2006a, 2006b; Lucero 2003). So, through associating themselves with E-Groups at a specific geographic place, a hub of ritual and perhaps economic activity, elite groups used the proximity and interaction of the surrounding settlers to gain authority over the Maya sociopolitical landscape for the first time. Across the Maya world in the Late Preclassic, people filled E-Groups, massive Triadic Groups, and other buildings with rich iconographic programs of architectural sculpture, the meaning of which is still only partially understood by scholars. This chapter discussed all these major infrastructure investments in the context of political authority: Specifically, who, if anyone, was in charge? It is clear now that by the Late Preclassic period the Maya elite had co-opted agricultural power as a legitimizing force, after generations of gathering in these plazas, themselves possibly symbolic agricultural fields. This power was directly related to the maize god and taming over the “wild” mountainous landscape. The important scenes from San Bartolo represent the idealized, quadripartite mythical spaces that powered Preclassic Maya society. The subsequent pecking out of faces or hieroglyphic captions (Taube et al. 2010: 7) could indicate displeasure or even the longing to savor a moment of such idealized power. Therefore, the Las Pinturas building can be seen as a space for the reinforcing of and possibly subsequent resistance to the early dynastic kings of San Bartolo. Archaeological, epigraphic, and art historical evidence confirms that the development of dynastic kingship coincided with the monumentalization of the preexisting social spaces of the E-Group plazas. In Chapter 4, I emphasized that the plazas were ample for gatherings, but in this discussion I have shown that at least by 200 BC, all these E-Groups underwent major expansions, such as Tikal, Uaxactun, El Palmar, and many others. These creations of huge limestone blocks covered in stucco, showing a true mastery to create multiple terraced surfaces and interlocking staircase in some cases, became divine

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concepts and active participants through the faces of different natural forces or deities. Aside from the cosmological implications of monumentalization, research from Late Preclassic period E-Groups also supports the claim that over many generations, one group or individual came to exert power over ritual, production, or exchange activities at the E-Group civic center. However, Chapter 6 will argue that the monumentalization efforts in the Late Preclassic became unsustainable, and a period of disorder, as evidenced by material and settlement changes, suggests that an institutional collapse preceded the development of Classic Maya civilization.

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MIGRATION AND ABANDONMENT

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arratives of civilizational decline surround us in contemporary media. Failed states, seemingly unending conflicts, refugee populations, environmental problems, and disease are all signs of what will soon be widespread, if one believes certain dire prophecies of various interest groups. Popular literature and film have capitalized on the dramatic nature of “collapse” narratives, often drawing responses from academics that refute the claims as oversimplification and misinterpretation of evidence (Diamond 2005; Mann 2005; cf. McAnany and Yoffee 2010). In fact, part of the allure of archaeological investigations into past settlements is to solve the riddle of when and why people left this or that place, perhaps with the ulterior motive to learn how to avoid the same fate. The Maya in particular became associated with popular perceptions of collapse; the jungle-covered cities and a calendar seemingly ticking down to an end date drove wild speculation for many years. The Classic-period collapse remains a fertile topic of inquiry and an equally fertile ground for scholarly disagreements. However, it became clear toward the end of the twentieth century that there was an earlier “collapse,” this one occurring at the end of the Late Preclassic period, about AD 1–250. It seems that people migrated from their homelands, produced new forms of household and ritual items, and converged around burgeoning dynastic capitals during this tumultuous time period. At the settlement level, certain centers that had been occupied for centuries suddenly became dormant, their residents ceasing to build. In perhaps a related trend, 109

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people began building heavily in nearby but more strategically located positions. As such, the migration from certain places at the end of the Preclassic may have been motivated by political instability. Another major factor leading to settlement abandonment, as revealed by recent paleoenvironmental data, was the apparent long-term drying of the Lowland landscape that peaked during the latter part of the Late Preclassic. At the site level, the Late Preclassic rulers’ penchant for outsized buildings reached its apogee during this period. The Late Preclassic is characterized by a seemingly unstoppable agglomeration of larger buildings on top of earlier phases, but at some point the major additions stopped, forever. A possible conclusion is that the proclivity for massive constructions in the early Late Preclassic and the concomitant insatiable appetite for raw construction materials led to the cessation of building in many Preclassic centers. In some places that were not abandoned, the Late Preclassic bulky buildings and wide plazas remained the centers of courtly life for centuries afterwards, often not altered until much later. The effect of major planning episodes thus reverberated for centuries. At the same time, the notions of kingship had likely transformed over generations in the Late Preclassic period into something different, something that transcended the initial role of ruler-as-center or ruler-as-maize-procurer in a built environment replicating a cosmic landscape. The institution of divine kingship carried with it a social requirement for building on a massive scale that, when practiced over time, became one of many factors that contributed to problems that led to migration and abandonment. The impulse to build things massively and resurface entire site cores was no longer a necessary practice in the maintenance of political authority. This is not to suggest that Early Classic dynasts, often referred to by subsequent rulers as the founding members of their families, did not build large buildings and engage in broad site modification. However, the physical centers of many communities, formerly a point on the east-west axis of the E-Groups, had shifted at most places in the Late Preclassic. Major changes occurred in Maya peoples’ engagement with everyday materials as well. The potters began to experiment with radical forms of ceramics and innovative surface decorations such as resist and polychrome painting. Stoneworkers began to refine techniques for block construction, exploiting new trade networks to obtain high-quality chert or obsidian from the Guatemalan highlands. In many ways, it seemed that the multiple and related phenomena of migration, building program changes, and different production of everyday materials signaled a sea change in Lowland Maya culture at this time. However, new evidence from El Palmar and elsewhere suggests that people continued to revere and visit Preclassic centers that sat empty in acts of reconnection to their deep past. Such evidence reframes

THE A RCHAEOLOGY OF ABANDONMENT AND “COLLAPSE”

this period as one of mostly resilience, in which core social behaviors and beliefs survived as people adapted to new political and environmental circumstances. THE ARCHAEOLOGY OF ABANDONMENT AND “COLLAPSE”

Although there was no singular “end” of the Preclassic period, no set date that signifies the beginning of the new era, distinct material and architectural indexes of changes imply widespread transformations across the lowlands. However, it is notoriously difficult to identify and measure abandonment in the archaeological record. Although the focus of their edited volume was the perception of “ruined” structures by later residents of ancient Maya cities, Stanton and Magnoni (2008: 13–18) outline several relevant questions to guide research into abandonment: 1) What was the context of abandonment? What were the possible reasons for abandonment? 2) Is the abandonment followed by further occupation, and, if so, how does it differ from the original? 3) How does continued settlement pattern in regard to the location of abandoned structures? 4) What types of behavior might be missing from our analyses? 5) What are the time scales involved in the use and later reuse and perception of a structure? 6) What is the evidence for continued human activity at abandoned structures? 7) Whose perspectives are we reconstructing?

These questions are useful, except that they fail to address a major logical fallacy – that it is often difficult archaeologically to distinguish between structural contexts of “abandonment” and “repeated use without remodeling.” For example, how can one judge whether a plaza was “abandoned” in AD 100 or simply “finished” in AD 100 and kept viable (i.e., free of debris or purposeful building) as a gathering space for 200–300 years after that? How can researchers judge “hiatus” versus continued use without modification or new constructions without tight chronological controls? Although the authors address this problem in question four – the “missing-behavior conundrum” – it makes more sense to begin with the assumption that we cannot recognize abandonment in most contexts without clear lenses of soil recolonization or evidence of actual deconstruction (e.g., Aguateca) (see Inomata and Triadan 2010). The lack of construction does not indicate prima facie abandonment, and in fact, the implicit underlying assumption is that each generation of ancient dwellers would have always necessarily modified everything in an

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archaeologically detectable way. A lack of precise ceramic chronology and radiocarbon sequence would seriously impede archaeologists’ ability to claim abandonment, as I discuss later with the Preclassic Maya example. As Inomata and Webb (2003: 4) point out, “[A]bandonment is not simply the end of occupation but also an integral part of long-term social processes,” and this is especially true in the current case. Regarding the more well-known Maya collapse, characterized as the abandonment of cities at the end of the Classic-period, scholars have reached a general agreement that abandonment occurred at different rates, scales, and social contexts (Culbert 1973, 1988; Demarest, Rice, and Rice 2004). This, we must assume, is the case with the abandonments of earlier periods as well. Some argue that “resilience” is a more appropriate term than “collapse” when “elements of a society (including belief systems and ways of making a living) retain their basic structure and function within longer cycles of change” (McAnany and Yoffee 2010: 10). Resilience theory, as described by Redman (2005: 72–3), can be applied to ancient societies by viewing social change as oscillating between cycles of exploitation, conservation, release, and reorganization. Among the ancient Maya, scholars have examined ecological realities that constrained the Maya capacities for resilience, including precipitation and the natural distribution of food resources (Scarborough 2007: 53). Such ecological constraints in the Yucatán Peninsula have led many to conclude that the Maya Lowland populations were more vulnerable to socioecological collapse and less able to be resilient in the face of further problems (Dunning, Beach, and Luzzadder-Beach 2012: 3656). In some cases, there was no collapse at all “because something central survived, and the people involved made a prudent adjustment to changing circumstances, in effect migrating to avoid the words” (McNeill 2010: 359). However, as Houston (2007) notes in the Maya context of institutional divine kingship, “[I]t is completely uncertain that Maya governance traveled without change from earliest times to the Terminal Classic collapse, the earlier lords living and ruling in teleological expectation of their successors.” THE FIRST MAYA “COLLAPSE”: THE END OF THE PRECLASSIC

As defined by Tainter (1988, 2006a: 60, 2006b), collapse is the “rapid loss of an established level of social, political, and/or economic complexity.” Key to his review of the archaeological literature on collapse is the Malthusian concept of overshoot, or “the outcome when a trajectory is unsustainable for environmental, technical, or social reasons” (Tainter 2006: 60). The “First Maya collapse” in the first centuries AD is an example of a period of major reorganization with environmental and anthropogenic factors, measured at the settlement, site, and object levels. The complexity of the collapse has just begun

T H E FI R S T MA YA “COLLAPSE”: THE END OF THE PRECLAS SIC

to unravel, and future work will further clarify the apparent material and spatial shifts in population and political authority. Prior to the 1990s, research focused primarily on the origins of dynastic kingship (Freidel and Schele 1988) and Maya civilization (Adams and Culbert 1977). Research on the Preclassic-to-Classic transitional period has been sparse and far from conclusive. A key volume addressing this case study is The Emergence of Lowland Maya Civilization, the published proceedings of a conference in the early 1990s organized by Nikolai Grube (1995). As introduced by Grube (1995:1–5), the changes in material culture and spatial organization of Lowland society are profound and naturally lead to an important case study in the “vulnerability of Maya society,” given ecological conditions and evolving political authority. Many articles contributed new information to the discussion on the Preclassic “collapse.” Juan Pedro Laporte reported on the Late Preclassic–Classic transition at Tikal, emphasizing that during the transition, “no indication exists of change in relation to the ritual and architectonic aspects . . . only to ceramic materials” (Laporte 1995: 26), including the change of red, waxy slips to more lustrous orange slips and the disappearance of white and cream ceramics. Krejci and Culbert (1995: 114) also concluded that “the beginning of the Early Classic does not mark a break in ritual patterns, but that the break occurs a century or so later . . . in the mid-fourth and early fifth centuries.” So, then, we see a break in settlement and architectonic inventories but deep continuities with ritual patterns, such as the treatment of the dead, architectural construction techniques, writing, artistic expressions, and so on. This chapter focuses on the simple fact that after the enormous investment between 300 and 200 BC described in Chapter 5, big building ceased for many generations in many Late Preclassic centers, including El Palmar. Two lines of evidence, environmental and material, from El Palmar give us clues about what people did in these centers. Both lines suggest that whatever happened after the Triadic Group and E-Group expansion seems to have been sufficient to undergird the spatial claim to political authority made by these early (probable) dynastic families and their burgeoning royal courts. However, as Houston (2007) cautions, there is “reason to suggest that ‘royalty’ differed in fundamental ways between the two periods.” Environmental evidence in the form of carbon isotopes and pollen samples paint a picture of water sources and agricultural practices that were consistent from 300 BC until possibly as late as AD 200. Material culture across the Lowlands was very homogeneous throughout the Late Preclassic period until between AD 100 and 150, when ceramic production changed in dramatic ways. Potters were using new techniques of manufacture, with fundamental changes in the shapes of vessels, including the use of supports and lids and the introduction of polychrome

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decoration. Described next is the evidence for collapse, abandonment, and possible resilience of El Palmar. SETTLEMENT RUPTURE: ABANDONMENT AND CONTINUITY IN THE CENTRAL LOWLANDS

When examining available evidence for the Preclassic “collapse” from the Central Lowlands, a pattern emerges of (1) sites that were abandoned during the Late Preclassic period and (2) sites that had clear continuity of occupation but a marked disruption in material and architectural practices after the Late Preclassic period (see Figure 4.3). El Palmar falls in the first descriptive category, along with other sites such as Cival, San Bartolo, and Nakbe. The second category includes large sites such as Tikal, Naranjo, Yaxha, Nakum, and Uaxactun. As discussed later, the large site of El Mirador shows signs of both abandonment and continuity and thus poses interpretive problems for those addressing the end of the Preclassic period. As mentioned in Chapter 5, residents at the site of Cival engaged in multiple large-scale architectural and artistic programs during the Late Preclassic (Estrada-Belli 2011). However, archaeological investigations concluded that “Cival entered a period of rapid decline around AD 100” (Estrada-Belli 2011:130). At this time, the residents erected a 1.3-kilometer stone wall that probably held a wooden palisade that circled the center of the site (Estrada-Belli 2011: 131). This possible defensive wall (Figure 6.1) is evidence that perhaps the social changes at the end of the Late Preclassic period were related to violence among comparable communities centered on divine dynastic rulers.

6.1. Possible defensive wall, Cival (after Estrada-Belli 2006: fig. 2).

SETTLEMENT RUPTURE

Another site with evidence of a Late Preclassic dynasty that seems to have been abandoned at the end of the Late Preclassic is San Bartolo. According to Runggaldier (2009: 91–2): “[F]rom current evidence, the site of San Bartolo was abandoned at the end of the Late Preclassic period or somewhat earlier, and reoccupied in the Late Classic at about AD 650, leaving a gap of approximately four centuries or more for which we have no archaeological evidence.” The current hypothesis of the San Bartolo Project is that the population relocated to the nearby site of Xultun, which shows a boom in building and population during the Classic-period (Garrison 2007; Garrison and Dunning 2009; Saturno, Rivera, and Beltrán 2012). The San Bartolo case highlights a detectable pattern in many known cases of Preclassic abandonment – that some evidence suggests local migrations to a nearby site, often in a more elevated location, as discussed later at El Palmar and nearby El Zotz (Doyle, Garrison, and Houston 2012). The region around El Mirador has been the source of much discussion of the Preclassic abandonment since the discovery of a large concentration of sites. Chapter 4 described the sites around El Mirador in the context of the 500 BC distribution of civic centers across the Maya Lowlands, and Chapter 5 explained their explosive presence by the 200 BC crystallization of Late Preclassic kingship. Although little direct evidence exists from the numerous sites, some recent analysis of El Mirador’s Triadic Groups proposed the hypothesis that the multiple, seemingly contemporaneous groups at El Mirador may have constructed Triadic Groups as the symbolic seats of lineages at the site (Velásquez 2012, 2014). Furthermore, many superficial contexts contained Late Preclassic ceramics, which investigators claim represent the final days of occupation at the site of El Mirador (Balcárcel et al. 2010). Here I evaluate claims that the entire region was depopulated at the end of the Late Preclassic due either to anthropogenic effects on the environment or to violent invasion by outsiders. A large amount of evidence exists that does not support the claims of abandonment, although the cessation of certain forms of architectural practices does suggest institutional collapse or transformation before the rise of Classic-period kingdoms in the area. A major contradiction in the work addressing the “collapse” of El Mirador is found in the researchers’ argument that the centers in the region fall under the category of “regal-ritual centers,” as put forth in the 1970s and 1980s (Hansen, Howell, and Guenter 2008: 33). Regal-ritual centers’ “existence depends almost entirely on ideological functions” (Fox 1977: 41, cited in Sanders and Webster 1988: 524; see also Blanton 2012: 709). But as Sanders and Webster (1988: 524–5) point out, regal-ritual center populations “tend to be small, ranging from a few hundred to a few thousand,” with a “lack of clear distinction between the urban population and those living in the rural countryside.” So therefore to describe the

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occupational presence of later periods (e.g., Protoclassic) as “brief” (Hansen, Howell, and Guenter 2008: 38) does not support the argument that the area was abandoned if, as stated earlier, the populations were small and not located in defined urban clusters. To support this claim, researchers would need results from widespread residential testing, which has not been done to any extent due to a focus on the conservation of the monumental center in recent years. Another problem with the dating of the E-Group buildings at Nakbe is the assumption that Middle Preclassic sherds in architectural fill indicate a final Middle Preclassic construction phase and therefore Late Preclassic abandonment. As Culbert (1999: 64) noted at Tikal, the major changes from Middle Preclassic (Tzec/Mamom) to Late Preclassic (Chuen/Chicanel) were in vessel form, not decoration. Therefore, it is highly possible that without a modal analysis of vessel form (see Forsyth 1989), Middle Preclassic sherds could have been mixed with Late Preclassic sherds. At El Palmar, mixed contexts with Middle Preclassic sherds dated to approximately 300–1 BC, falling squarely within the stylistic period of the Late Preclassic. Furthermore, the Protoclassic reoccupation by possible pilgrims described by Hansen et al. (2008: 38) for Nakbe cites a study by Beatriz Balcárcel (1999: 316) in which she herself notes that “our observations will be a priori and without any sustainable basis” (“nuestras observaciones serían a priori y sin ninguna base sustentable”) because they had not analyzed the suspected Protoclassic ceramics. Hansen and colleagues (2008: 43) interpret the Protoclassic ceramics at these sites as the “burning and leaving of offerings on public buildings after they had fallen into disrepair are suggestive of the itinerant passage of people, perhaps religious pilgrims.” However, they fail to show how these material remains would differ from the ritual activity of the center before a supposed abandonment, leaving the possibility likely that remnant populations were continuing traditions in the same place regardless of whether or not they were engaging in major civic building projects. Other research in the region calls into question the proposed reasons for abandonment of El Mirador and its environs, as mentioned in Chapter 4, mainly the conspicuous consumption of wood for stucco production leading to environmental degradation (Clark, Hansen, and Pérez Suárez 2000: 469–70; Estrada-Belli 2011: 131). According to Hansen and colleagues, this stucco production eventually lead to environmental problems due to increased deforestation and erosion (Wahl et al. 2006, 2007). However, no conclusive programs of paleoenvironmental investigation have been actualized within the sites of El Mirador, but rather at Lago Puerto Arturo, approximately 25 kilometers away from the site core itself. This evidence is tenuous and perhaps displays an overreliance on anthropogenic effects rather than

SETTLEMENT RUPTURE

broader climatic problems. Recent research in southern Belize identified a drying period between AD 200 and 300 that perhaps reflects similar trends in other Central Lowlands sites (Kennett et al. 2012). In an interview with Smithsonian Magazine (Brown 2011), R. D. Hansen has also put forth the hypothesis that a conflict took place at El Mirador between local rulers and warriors from the Central Mexican metropolis of Teotihuacan. His hypothesis is that emissary warriors from Teotihuacan, located more than 1,000 kilometers to the west, came to El Mirador to subdue the Late Preclassic rulers who had grown into a regional threat for the Central Mexican metropolis. Material evidence of an invasion, he argues, exists in the discovery of spear points from Central Mexican sources and possible deconstruction of buildings by the residents of El Mirador for use of blocks in hand-to-hand combat or as manual projectiles (Hansen and Suyuc Ley 2012). No written publication has addressed this evidence, so an evaluation of such claims is impossible at present. Archaeologists recovered Late Preclassic Maya sherds at Teotihuacan, which suggests interaction between the two areas, although not at the same intensity as the Early Classic period (Clayton 2005: table 4). Additionally, a recent study identified Mexican turkeys (Meleagris gallopavo) at El Mirador, implying the possible exchange of animals and/or domestication (Thornton et al. 2012). However, based on the simple chronological discrepancy between the proposed abandonment of El Mirador around AD 150 and the frequent material and epigraphic evidence of a Teotihuacan presence in the latter half of the fourth century, a large-scale invasion leading to abandonment seems unlikely. Finally, recent reconnaissance in the region around El Mirador has identified a number of Late Classic sites that, coupled with the prior knowledge of Late Classic residential groups within the centers of El Mirador and Nakbe, begs further investigation into the continuity of settlement across the area (Morales Aguilar 2010: 35–7). Citing recent research revealing Classic-period evidence in and around El Mirador, Carolos Morales Aguilar (2010: 36) reports Everything seems to indicate that there was a demographic decline at the end of the Protoclassic and the beginning of the Early Classic, [with] few families performing rituals and termination ceremonies, reoccupation, and/or abandonment in various Preclassic buildings, they also continued practicing domestic and subsistence and occupied new sectors of the site, principally La Muerta and Sacalero.

The site of La Muerta furthermore contained a structure, built in the Early Classic, that was continually revisited during the Late Classic and contained fragments of stucco portraiture (Hansen, Howell, and Guenter 2008: 41).

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Sites That Had Clear Continuity Rather than pointing to one part of the building process such as stucco production, I argue in this chapter that a more holistic culture of monumentality, or the intent of Preclassic leaders to continually top or outdo prior building efforts to a large degree of scale, was unsustainable regardless of particular aspects of building. To support this assertion, I contrast sites with no clear occupation gaps after the Preclassic and those that fell silent. An examination of selected, well-excavated sites in the Central Lowlands tradition can possibly illustrate trends in continuity between the Preclassic and Classic-periods. I suggest here that there existed a discrepancy in scale between certain Late Preclassic centers that perhaps contributed to the abandonment of certain sites. Specifically, analysis of the different types of the well-known Triadic architecture shows that sites that built massive platforms with restricted, elevated courtyards tend to be those that exhibit migrations in the Preclassic-to-Classic transition (Figure 6.2). In contrast, sites with Triadic architecture built on low platforms that left relatively open spaces, the most well excavated example of which would be the North Acropolis at Tikal (Figure 6.3), tend to outlast their neighbors and

(a)

(c)

(b)

(d)

6.2. Examples of massive, restricted courtyard Triadic architecture: (a) El Palmar; (b) Cival (after Estrada-Belli 2006: fig. 2); (c) reconstruction drawing of El Tigre, El Mirador, by Terry Rutledge (redrawn after Hansen 1992: fig. 23); (d) final phase, Las Pinturas, San Bartolo (redrawn after Hurst 2009: fig. 7).

SETTLEMENT RUPTURE

(a)

(b)

(c)

(d)

6.3. Examples of low, open Triadic architecture: (a) reconstruction of North Acropolis, Tikal, Late Preclassic period (after Estrada-Belli 2006: fig. 3.2; original by Loten 2007); (b) Group H, Uaxactun (after Laporte and Valdés 1993: fig. 58); (c) reconstruction drawing of Naranjo Group B-5 (after Fialko 2004b: figs. 5 and 6); (d) Yaxha North Acropolis and Northeast Acropolis Groups.

participate in material production associated with the Terminal Preclassic or Protoclassic (Brady et al. 1998; Callaghan 2008). The sites in the Eastern Petén, such as Nakum, Yaxha, and Naranjo, all developed into Late Preclassic centers, complete with large civic E-Group plazas and evidence of monumental investments in platforms and Triadic architecture. However, with current evidence, all three sites show a notable gap in monumental construction during the Preclassic-toClassic transition. At Naranjo (Figure 6.4), investigations into the Triadic Group B-5 demonstrated a Late Preclassic wide pyramidal platform with a modest height constructed on a level hilltop and near a natural depression in the bedrock (Fialko 2004b: 573–4). According to Vilma Fialko (2004b: 574), the wider platform and open platform were covered by an expansion that “notably contrasts with that of the walls of the preceding construction phase.” The excavator suggests that despite an apparent gap in the ceramic chronology, the residents invested heavily again in the Triadic Group B-5 in the Early Classic (Tzakol 3/Manik 3A phases) when the platform remained relatively open and nonrestricted (Fialko 2004b). A similar gap-then-reoccupation hypothesis has been proposed at the site of Nakum, after the discovery of a Protoclassic and Early Classic

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6.4. Location of Triadic Group B-5, Naranjo, in relation to the E-Group plaza (redrawn after Fialko 2004b: fig. 2).

presence in the Acropolis that is based on a Preclassic Triadic arrangement (Zralka, Koszkul, and Hermes 2008). Notably, major investment in the Triadic Group came during the equivalent of Tzakol 3 phase, including talud-tablero architecture associated with the introduction of Teotihuacanstyle architecture in the Petén. A Late Classic tomb in the Acropolis at Nakum included a possible Early Classic heirloom jade pectoral, suggesting that a royal lineage existed after the Preclassic-to-Classic transition (Zralka, Koszkul, and Hermes 2008). A wide Preclassic platform of modest height also possibly existed under the behemoth acropolis that supports Structure 216 at Yaxha (Hermes, Noriega, and Calderón Santizo 1997). Limited archaeological and conservation work also revealed a complex iconographic program in modeled stucco in the south face of the nearby North Acropolis dated to the Late Preclassic (Figure 6.5b and 6.5c). A Late Preclassic stela found nearby (although moved from its original position) also supports the hypothesis that the royal dynasty at Yaxha known from the Classic-period had developed by the Late Preclassic (Figure 6.5a). However, a distinct lack of evidence for major Early Classic construction and occupation could suggest a rupture in settlement like that noted at nearby Naranjo. At Uaxactun, evidence of a Late-Preclassic-to-Early-Classic royal dynasty comes from both the “Sunken Plaza” building in Group E and

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6.5. (a) Detail of Stela 43, Yaxha; (b and c) detail of stucco facade, Yaxha, North Acropolis.

Group H (Laporte and Valdés 1993; Valdés, Fahsen, and Escobedo 1999). There excavators noticed the initial Triadic form of the southern building of the Group E plaza (Figure 6.6), with a relatively accessible patio during the Late Preclassic. During the Terminal Preclassic, the elite at Uaxactun also began constructing Group H, a Triadic arrangement around a patio that included large architectural masks and mural paintings (Laporte and Valdés 1993).

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6.6. Southern building of the Group-E plaza, Uaxactun: (a) plan (after Laporte and Valdés 1993: fig. 34); (b) plan (after Laporte and Valdés 1993: fig. 35); (c) reconstruction drawing (after Laporte and Valdés 1993: fig. 36).

An important contrast to note between the Triadic Groups of Uaxactun and those of El Mirador is again that of scale: the basal platforms at Uaxactun are many times smaller in dimensions than those of many El Mirador groups (Figure 6.7).

UNSUSTAINABLE BUILDINGS: MONUMENTAL T RIADIC GROUPS

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UNSUSTAINABLE BUILDINGS: MONUMENTAL TRIADIC GROUPS

The building process, as well as the relationship of the final products to each other, changed drastically in the end of the Preclassic period. Focusing on the scale of Triadic Groups allows an exploration of the possibility that there is a correlation between the scale and restricted nature of Late Preclassic Triadic Groups at some sites, such as Cival, San Bartolo, El Palmar, and El Mirador, and sites that demonstrate migrations of population or at least a cessation of monumental building at the end of the Late Preclassic. This perceived pattern is not a direct correlation between of sites with large, restricted Triadic Groups and abandonment. However, the possibility exists that wider and more modest Triadic platforms at certain sites allowed for more people to gather and

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continued to reinforce group identity within the context of emerging polities in the Lowlands. Internal community cohesion (or lack thereof) perhaps played a larger role than previously recognized in research focusing heavily on environmental changes and water management. Perhaps the boom in massive Triadic Group construction could represent a period of maximum community participation, whether through voluntary association or through social pressure from political authorities. El Mirador is an exceptional example, with more than a dozen examples of Triadic Groups, all presumably from the Late Preclassic. Regardless of the correlation between Triadic type and differential evidence of abandonment, the massive Triadic Groups epitomize the Preclassic “collapse.” These hulking structures at many places became frozen in time; in others, Classic-period populations simply entombed them with a veneer of further buildings, some choosing to delete the Triadic form altogether. Instead of a core goal of planning and monumental construction, the Triadic Groups seemed to have become simply a bulky foundation for descendant but fundamentally different royal spaces. Houston (2007) has proposed a possible implication of such a transformation in architectural practices: “[A] mix that favors social explanation is more difficult to find in the literature but can nonetheless be imagined: the deterioration of systems of belief centered on triadic structures and masked facades of deities, along with a signal change in governance.” At El Palmar, it seems that residents constructed the Triadic Group in two major investments of fill, probably coinciding with the two Late Preclassic enlargements of the E-Group radial pyramid described in Chapter 5. A horizontal excavation, unit EP-9A-1, revealed a complex facade with a possible frieze element that has since been destroyed by erosion and root action (Figure 6.8). Similar to other Late Preclassic buildings, a participant in ritual would have had to break up his or her ascent due to interlocking staircases and landings, perhaps a strategy to increase drama in processions up or down. Future research at the site would reveal more about the chronology or use of the largest pyramid in the Triadic Group, but based on nearby excavated examples, it would have likely held similar staircases and sculpture, including masks. After the construction of the Triadic Group, which placed it at the new center of the spatial layout of El Palmar, residents stopped constructing large things and engaging in large-scale planning. In other words, the ability of leaders at El Palmar or the desire of the populace to build such massive structures plateaued. It is possible that the cost, whether in materials exchanged or physical labor expended, simply grew too large for continued building. But only in certain places does it seem that institutions failed to sustain ambitious building programs. The differential investment in monumental building between the Late Preclassic and Early Classic-periods is a hugely important question for future research at

MATERIAL CHANGES: THE ELUS IVE PROTOCLAS SIC

6.8. Photographs of possible eroded frieze, Unit EP-9A-1.

sites with demonstrated continuity. The evidence for El Palmar indicates that a variety of factors may have been primary motivators for population movements in the Late Preclassic, although the timing of the abandonment and the extent of reoccupation need further clarification and refinement. MATERIAL CHANGES: THE ELUSIVE PROTOCLASSIC

Finally, widespread changes in material culture at the end of the Preclassic suggest a shift in production chains from the procurement of raw materials to the finishing of household goods. Certain types of vessels are markers of the Protoclassic, and they appear between 75 ± 25 BC and AD 400 ± 20 (Brady et al. 1998: 18). According to Brady et al. (1998: 18), the Protoclassic should not be considered a definite period of time, but rather the ceramic phase is a “content-defined unit – or ceramic stage – delimited by the appearance of a broad series of ceramic attributes.” Most notable are the so-called mammiform tetrapod vessels, which seem to have been produced across many generations around this time, although the appearance was a gradual rather than sudden development from other foot modes (Brady et al. 1998: 19). On reexamination of Protoclassic forms, researchers have noted that materials from both the Late Preclassic and Early Classic “occur in sound contextual association along with typologically ‘transitional’ material” (Brady et al.

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6.9. Photographs and drawings of Protoclassic ceramics, El Palmar.

1998: 22). Recent reevaluations of ceramics from the Holmul region confirm that “specific ‘protoclassic’ modes (like tetrapod mammiform supports) were dropped from ceramic inventories by AD 400” (Callaghan 2008a: 35). Very few examples of Protoclassic ceramics come from El Palmar – and all from surface contexts – suggesting that people were already gone when other sites were producing them (Figure 6.9). Notably, the widespread changes

MATERIAL CHANGES: THE ELUS IVE PROTOCLAS SIC

in ceramic production coincided with several architectural practices: (1) a reduction in scale, mostly with respect to increasing mass, (2) a collective dedication to less massive but more intricate and detailed sculpture and mural painting that continued with Late Preclassic precedents, and (3) the inception of the tradition of carved stone monuments celebrating individual accomplishments in line with grander cycles of time and mythological histories. Nowhere are these changes more evident than in the Mundo Perdido at Tikal (Laporte and Fialko 1995: 51–4). The implications of these material changes for the transformation of the institution of political authority in the form of divine kingship are many. At sites like El Palmar, the lack of participation in broader ceramic production trends indicates that populations migrated or that the remaining populations were no longer involved in long-distance information sharing among potters, as described for the Middle Preclassic in Chapter 4. So the obvious question is, Where did the people go? In a GIS analysis conducted in conjunction with Thomas Garrison and Stephen Houston, I have proposed that eastwarddirection paths pass within an area of about 2 kilometers width between eastern and western points of the Buenavista Valley. We identified the area within the paths as the most likely west-east travel pathway, which we called the “Buenavista Valley corridor” (Doyle, Garrison, and Houston 2012). One part of our analysis of exchange focused on the effects of east-west travel on settlements during the Preclassic-to-Classic transition. The corridor passes directly through the site of El Palmar and very close to the site of La Avispa (Figure 6.10). These sites were thus located near the most probable exchange routes to Tikal, which perhaps contributed to demographic growth, reaching an apogee in the Late Preclassic period. We argued that by about AD 1–100, Tikal had become the dominant polity in the Buenavista Valley, controlling and increasing foot traffic on a preexisting east-west exchange route. Perhaps the growth of importance of the Tikal Dynasty eventually destabilized the daily lives of residents at El Palmar and La Avispa, especially if Tikal and El Palmar constituted the civic seats of competing polities. It is plausible, then, that El Palmar was originally in line with the path leading to Tikal but that, after fortunes shifted in the Late Preclassic, it became necessary for the elite population to relocate to a more restricted location. The later growth of exchange into and out of Tikal may have contributed to the migration of elite residents of El Palmar and La Avispa away from the Buenavista Valley corridor and to the sites of El Zotz and Bejucal. In fact, the abandonment of the monumental core of El Palmar between AD 1 and 250 coincides with the sudden growth of sites such as Tikal and El Zotz, supporting the assertion that local migrations occurred within the Buenavista Valley region motivated by defense. Obviously, other factors, such as internal political

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6.10. Analysis of the Buenavista Valley corridor (from Doyle, Garrison, and Houston 2012: fig. 2).

pressures and environmental unpredictability, could also have contributed to the abandonment of Late Preclassic sites in the valley. Regardless of the causal mechanisms at work, it seems that Early Classic elite residents built settlements away from the likely exchange routes to create a more defensible and secure location for daily life. The architecture of the Early Classic settlements at El Zotz, especially in the El Diablo Group, contrasts sharply in style and decoration to known architecture at El Palmar. At the Templo del Sol Nocturno, investigated by Edwin Román, the stucco sculpture contains complicated layering and finely detailed stuccowork that perhaps shows a more refined production process as opposed to the larger, subtle curves of Late Preclassic sculpture (see Chapter 5). The fact that residents in the Late Preclassic had leveled the hilltop and built low platforms at El Diablo suggests that local people in the Early Classic invested in modifying the landscape in different ways than had their predecessors. These changing engagements with building materials evident at El Diablo also manifested in carved stelae and altars at the El Zotz site center. Although Late Preclassic monuments exist at Central Lowlands sites such as Cival, Yaxha,

INCOMPLETE COLLAPSE OF EL PALMAR: ABANDONMENT A ND RESILIENCE

Tikal, San Bartolo, and Uaxactun, the earliest monuments in the Buenavista Valley are from early dynastic rulers at El Zotz. The carved stone and wooden monuments in the Early Classic at El Zotz and Bejucal signaled the political authority of the local rulers within larger traditions of emerging polities across the Maya Lowlands. The monuments mark the transformed institution of divine kingship from its Late Preclassic foundations and the cemented transfer of the community center from a geographic point on the landscape to the bodies of holy lords, whose courts could move around and recenter at new places. INCOMPLETE COLLAPSE OF EL PALMAR: ABANDONMENT AND RESILIENCE

Despite the dominance of Preclassic material at El Palmar, it is apparent from superficial and intrusive contexts that the abandonment of all areas of the site was not simultaneous. Radiocarbon evidence from the E-Group suggests that it may not have fallen into disrepair for hundreds of years, despite a Late Preclassic date for the construction of the final plaza floor surfacing and staircase construction. In fact, certain parts of structures continued to be used and remodeled within the E-Group, while other parts remained unaltered until the jungle took over sometime during the Late Classic-period. Large concentrations of Early Classic polychrome pottery came from excavations in the south-central portion of the site, especially on Platform E5-7 and the Templo de Agua, Structure F5-1. Excavations in the E-Group and at the water’s edge revealed two different periods of post-Preclassic occupation, two occupations that are not necessarily continuous or interrelated. Residents constructed the main building at the summit of Structure E4-1 during the Preclassic period but resurfaced the floor at least twice in later time periods (Figure 6.11). The lack of cultural material from the summit excavations makes these remodeling events difficult to date, but eroded sherds on the surface suggest a possible Early Classic date for the final use of the structure. The final users of the structure were carrying out activities that required heavy obsidian use within the confines of the structure, possibly bloodletting rituals. Other evidence supports the interpretation of Early Classic use of the main pyramid. As mentioned earlier, excavations on the east-west axis on the eastern pyramid–plaza interface recovered a nearly complete Cubierta Impressed pot (Figure 6.12a) associated with a typically Early Classic chert biface (Figure 6.12b). Further evidence for a continuous occupation comes from the long platform of the E-Group, Structure E4-4. First, on the central east-west axis of the structure, residents completed several modifications after the Late Preclassic boom, and further alterations on Structure E4-4 first demonstrated a possible reoccupation at a later date than the final staircase. Unlike post–AD 150

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6.11. Excavations at the summit of Structure E4-1-1: (a) north profile of EP-8B; (b) remains of summit building walls; (c) floor of summit building (photographs by Arturo Godoy). Outlined areas indicate possible Early Classic resurfacing of floor and areas where obsidian was recovered.

modifications at nearby E-Groups at Uaxactun and Tikal, the El Palmar E-Group exhibits small, low platforms with no apparent comparisons in the region. Two lines of evidence indicate that these platforms were later than the staircase building event: (1) an intrusive burial on the east-west axis of Structure

INCOMPLETE COLLAPSE OF EL PALMAR: ABANDONMENT A ND RESILIENCE

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6.12. Early Classic E-Group materials: (a) photograph and drawing of Cubierta Impressed pot, Structure E4-1; (b) photograph of Early Classic chert biface, Structure E4-1; (c) photograph of green obsidian eccentric, Structure E4-4.

E4-4 of an individual with Early Classic ceramics of the Balanza and possibly Dos Arroyos polychrome groups (see Doyle and Matute Rodríguez 2010: 213–14; Scherer 2010: 328–9) and, (2) surface collections near the platforms that included Early Classic materials, the most diagnostic of which was a miniature eccentric made out of green obsidian, which likely came from the Pachuca source near Teotihuacan (Zachary Hruby, personal communication 2010) and is common in the Early Classic (Figure 6.12c).

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Platform E5-7 and Templo de Agua Deposit The possibility that the small platforms on Structure E4-4 and associated burial were Early Classic in date and not connected with any early occupation was borne out in the excavations on Platform E5-7 and Structure F5-1. Evidence shows a possible lens of abandonment – in the form of darkened soil with little cultural content – directly overlaying the final Late Preclassic stucco floor of Platform E5-7 (Figure 6.13). The layer of soil is distinct from the extensive floor construction in the Preclassic period, in which stucco was either laid directly on top of a prior layer or on top of a thin layer of compact fill (including sherds). This dark lens was later covered over with a crude stone layer that contained Early Classic sherds, perhaps signaling that people returned to a platform that had been partially covered in vegetation for some time. Or, perhaps, residents intentionally placed soil at the time of abandonment, as found at other sites (e.g., around Ceibal) (see Tourtellot 1988: 212–13). Furthermore, excavations on the small mounds in the northwest and south central edges of the platform showed solid Late Preclassic house foundations reutilized by Early Classic people (Figure 6.14). It seems that they were living on the same platforms but not using similar techniques of floor construction or ceramic production. A burial of two individuals was apparently excavated down to the Late Preclassic floor, where the bodies had been laid, only to be filled in and paved over by the final Early Classic occupational surface (Figure 6.15a and b). Burial goods included several marine shell fragments, worked chert, and mineral crystals (Figure 6.15c). The people living on Platform E5-7 were clearly participating in wider networks of ceramic production, long-distance trade, and ritual practice. The nearby small temple, Structure F5-1, became the scene of repeated offerings that show strong characteristics of commensality, or ritual gathering and perhaps feasting, and possibly even a conscious termination of daily life at the site. Excavations at the building nicknamed the “Templo de Agua” revealed a massive deposit around AD 300 (2-sigma AD 230–420) of ceramic vessels, faunal material, and other artifacts in the floor of the northwest corner of the building. Ceramic vessels recovered (Figure 6.16) include a large quantity of striated jars that probably held water or liquids and a number of polychrome serving vessels that would have held other consumables. A dark greenstone polished bead was found broken in two pieces, with each piece coming from separate stratigraphic lots (Figure 6.17). The fact that artifact refits were found across all lots of the deposit, with stratigraphically shallower sherds showing more weathering than others, leads to the conclusion that the deposit occurred as one event or at least over a short period of time during one generation. The volume of material

INCOMPLETE COLLAPSE OF EL PALMAR: ABANDONMENT A ND RESILIENCE

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6.13. Excavation EP-5B-1: (a) excerpt of profile drawing with designated lots; (b) photograph of crude floor, possibly Early Classic resurfacing, lot EP-5B-1-3; (c) photograph of lot EP-5B-1-4 (red), possible lens of abandonment above the Late Preclassic floor; (d) photograph of lot EP-5B-1-5, the latest in a series of three Late Preclassic floors.

does not suggest intermittent visitors or “pilgrims,” as suggested by researchers at El Mirador (Hansen, Howell, and Guenter 2008); rather, these people probably lived on Platform E5-7, produced ceramics, and conducted a termination ritual at El Palmar – probably as the ultimate

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6.14. Photographs and drawings from EP-5A-1: (a) profile drawing by Rony Piedrasanta; (b) plan drawing by Rony Piedrasanta; (c) plan photograph.

result of the migrations that happened for generations after the final monumental building plan was enacted. In the context of resilience theory (Redman 2005: 73), these actions by El Palmar residents signify a “remember cycle” in which connection with the past drives a new phase of social reorganization.

INCOMPLETE COLLAPSE OF EL PALMAR: ABANDONMENT A ND RESILIENCE

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6.15. Burial, unit EP-5C-1: (a) composite photograph by author; (b) drawing by Rony Piedrasanta; (c) burial goods, lots EP-5C-1-2 and EP-5C-1-3.

Triadic Group Evidence: Reconnecting with the Past One final aspect of “postcollapse” life at El Palmar deserves mention. Probably during the same fourth-century expansion of El Zotz and Bejucal mentioned earlier, a group of residents, not necessarily the same that had reoccupied Platform E5-7, constructed a small structure containing what was likely the tomb of an important individual. Looters in the late twentieth century pierced the small structure in the middle of the Triadic

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6.16. Ceramic artifacts from the “Templo de Agua” deposit, Early Classic-period.

Group plaza, Structure E5-1, and encountered a sizable tomb (approximately 1 by 3 meters) with an intact vaulted ceiling (Figure 6.18). The tomb was oriented north-south. Found inside were only a few fragments of what was likely a jade and shell mosaic mask (probably part of a pectoral or belt). The placement of the small burial temple (slightly askew from the final central axis of the largest pyramid in the Triadic Group), the

INCOMPLETE COLLAPSE OF EL PALMAR: ABANDONMENT A ND RESILIENCE

6.17. Polished dark greenstone bead fragments recovered from the “Templo de Agua.”

construction of the tomb and subsequent superstructure, and the meager artifacts left by the looters all suggest an Early Classic date. During the fourth century in the region, many similar tombs, including an intact tomb found at El Zotz (Román and Newman 2010) and looted tombs found at Bejucal (Garrison et al. 2012), contained important royal individuals, although these chambers lay below larger-scale pyramids. Regardless of the exact timing of this entombment, the placement of the burial shows a distinct intent to reconnect with the major alignments of the Preclassic buildings, possibly as a nod to their ancestral connection with El

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6.18. Probable Early Classic tomb, Structure E5-1.

Palmar. Also, the fact that the builders placed the tomb on the east-west axis of the Triadic Group and not on the east-west axis of the E-Group, as builders had done in the Early Classic at Tikal, is significant. Perhaps the reoccupants of El Palmar were familiar only with the Late Preclassic concept of center, as it

CONCLUSIONS

followed Late Preclassic rulers in performances in the newly erected Triadic Groups. A suggestive interpretation of the entombment would be that the Early Classic peoples from near El Palmar sought to return the body of a nobleperson to an important ancestral center. Preliminary results from instrumental neutron activation analysis (INAA) performed by Ronald Bishop on potsherd samples from El Palmar, El Zotz, and Bejucal indicate a relationship between the clay sources of El Palmar residents and the clay sources of Classic-period El Zotz residents. The evidence is not conclusive regarding the movement of people or pottery from El Palmar to El Zotz despite one sherd from El Palmar having a 100 percent compositional match with a fragment from an El Diablo tomb vessel. However, the overlapping of clay compositions between the Preclassic and Classic-periods could mean that El Zotz populations utilized clay sources that had been well known to El Palmar residents, perhaps a proxy indicator of migration between the two. As such, the Buenavista Valley case could be a future case study in migration as a collective strategy for social resilience. CONCLUSIONS

After investing in a widespread site core plan that included construction of the massive Triadic Group, the residents in and around El Palmar left and ceased investing in the site. People did not forget the ruined structures of El Palmar, as some reoccupied residential platforms and buried their deceased family members, including perhaps a royal person, at the site. Many factors contributed to the collapse of El Palmar. However, the collective monumentality that had grown to require unsustainable building practices related to new Triadic Groups also led to El Palmar’s fate as one of many Central Lowlands tradition centers that lost population at the end of the Preclassic. Evidence from El Palmar and the wider area underscores that narratives of collapse are inherently incomplete. Nowhere has collapse been due to one cause such as drought or disease. The collapse at El Palmar comprises multiple episodes of populations leaving, returning for short spans of time, and even establishing a connection with earlier symbolic systems, perhaps as an indicator of an ancestral place that still affected their identities in absentia. Patterns of resilience noticed between El Palmar and possible descendant populations at other centers are indicative of wider patterns in the area and can serve as models for future testing between Preclassic and nearby Classic centers.

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he information presented here about the preclassic maya world serves as a starting point from which to paint a fuller picture of the origins of Maya politics. Certain trends have emerged that challenge archaeologists and art historians to rethink approaches to Preclassic materials at the various scales of analysis outlined in Chapter 1. This chapter outlines the conclusions from the reexamination of available early Maya information and the recent findings at El Palmar and other sites in the Maya Lowlands. CONCLUSIONS

Several broad conclusions can be drawn from the investigation of when, where, and why Maya settlers originally constructed their homes and community centers. At many places, the locations of Middle Preclassic E-Groups seem to have depended on factors related to landscape and proximity to neighboring settlements. People desired a closeness to seasonal bodies of water, both for drinking and for richer agricultural production, but they also sought relatively elevated land compared to the low-lying surroundings. Although we have no written clues about why people sought to center their activities with a visibility of the surrounding landscape, it is possible that they consciously chose to have visible access to lands that were not available to neighboring communities. Could we be looking at early evidence of concepts of territories and boundaries, or is the distribution of settlements more random than appears from available data? 140

CONCLUSIONS

Multiple factors likely affected the location of settlements and the routes of foot travel. One possibility is that as maize farming communities grew in size, multiple kinship groups cooperated to create more permanent spaces for existing economic and social interactions. Often this included a dedicatory offering of precious materials that suggests a participation in wider Mesoamerican beliefs that mirrored practices from other cultures. However, these plazas and associated buildings then became agents in the lives of subsequent generations; the history and activity embodied within the constructions actively drew people in from surrounding areas. Perhaps people went to multiple centers to complete the various social requirements as the plazas beckoned from their elevated position. That the early plazas, their architecture, and associated material culture were not explicitly marked as royal or mythological presents archaeologists with an interesting conundrum. On the one hand, it is possible that from the earliest paving of the E-Group plazas, important individuals or small groups wielded collective power bestowed on them by the participating communities. They called the shots and directed the actions of the many hands contributing labor, probably with some higher purpose or goal, whether mythicoreligious or mundane. On the other hand, the lack of royal images, which are so plentiful and omnipresent in later generations, may signal an important transitional phase in ancient Maya politics. It is possible, then, that we see in the Middle Preclassic E-Group distribution and construction the very intersections of collective action and the growing sovereign power of different groups or individuals. This tension deserves a closer look as further investigations address the Middle Preclassic. At the site level of analysis, the E-Group buildings’ biographies and the sequence of other megascalar constructions in the late Middle Preclassic and Late Preclassic periods tell a tale of episodic bursts of early Maya monumental building. Between 500 and 100 BC, the communities that had gathered around E-Groups began to imbue these spaces and buildings with mythological concepts through stucco sculpture and mural painting. The pyramids became mythological mountains, from which the very nourishment of water, plants, and animals emerged. We know from the earliest Lowland texts and mural paintings that the concept of the ajaw community leader had begun to take shape. These leaders placed themselves at the center of the interface between the human world and wild nature, co-opting cosmological principles and imagery to claim authority over groups of people. The major question that remains about Late Preclassic kings pertains to the extent of their reach; in other words, over whom, really, did they exert any influence? Moreover, we know little about the nature of early Maya political influence. It could have taken the form of threatening violence and submission to the leaders’ agendas, it could have been tributary in nature with outlying

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groups contributing goods or labor to the growing monumental centers, or it is possible that little influence was exerted over everyday farmers by the costumed elite. The Late Preclassic kings (and perhaps queens, although we have little evidence to suggest female rulership) depicted themselves with attributes of the maize god, the model of beauty and fertility. This divine connection became manifest and was foundational for the Classic-period royal courts, as the kings and queens took on attributes of various deities in addition to the maize god. However, the divine politics of the burgeoning royal courts of the Late Preclassic period did not supersede the everyday politics created by the movements and interactions of peoples in economic and social relationships. This is perhaps most evident in both the material culture of the latter half of the Late Preclassic period and the patterns of migration and abandonment registered in the archaeological record. The widespread standardization of forms and surface treatment of Mamom and Chicanel sphere ceramics gives the impression of the spread of pottery technology over large areas and for extended periods of time. Whether this perceived standardization is a result of enforcement by any sort of authority or simply a product of a long-standing trend of the times is unclear at present. At the turn of the millennium, in and around E-Group centers that had exploded into large monumental gathering spaces with elaborate temples, peoples suddenly left many places. Perhaps it was not as sudden as the archaeological remains suggest, but between about AD 1 and 250, Maya Lowland peoples certainly moved around at a frequency that was much greater than the preceding 800–900 years. The general trend seemed to have been that populations moved out of the low-lying areas next to seasonal water sources and into upland, defensible locations. Two main factors contributed to the abandonment of some Late Preclassic centers. First, as the growing body of paleoclimatic evidence shows, the environment experienced a period of extended dryness in the end of the Late Preclassic. The changes in available groundwater compounded with the gradual erosion caused by deforestation and other anthropogenic mismanagement meant that many of the seasonal water sources were no longer viable in many places. Agriculture then had to move farther away from the monumental centers or to wholly different areas in nearby watersheds. The second factor contributing to abandonment was undoubtedly political in nature. We see the increase of demand and supply of certain commodities, obsidian, for example, that necessitated accelerated movement of people to and from emerging royal capitals. Perhaps this changed the way that the farming peoples between communities behaved or related to one another. For example, gathering places that served specific purposes for predetermined related groups became unstable in the sense that the roaming traders from neighbors, perhaps

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even competitive or hostile communities, could pass through at any time without much warning. Although we only have traces of defensive postures taken in the Late Preclassic, the pattern of resettlement to defensible locations certainly supports the hypothesis that conflict had increased. Differing strategies of Late Preclassic kings to adapt to environmental or sociopolitical changes led to wildly different trajectories into the Classicperiod, a process that could shed light on similar situations in other cultures of the ancient world. The Preclassic Maya case also weaves together narratives of common themes about the “collapse” of societies, including environmental degradation, agriculture and water management, conflict, and unsustainable building practices. Looming large in the discussion is the site of El Mirador, Guatemala, which in some ways is the epitome of Late Preclassic excess, but it holds provocative clues about continuous occupation even in the absence of powerful political authorities. The work at El Palmar has contributed an important perspective to the conversation on the origins of Maya politics. ARCHAEOLOGY OF EMERGING MAYA POLITICS

When archaeologists in the twentieth century proposed theories to explain the origins of ancient states, the Maya always served as an anomalous test case (e.g., Carneiro 1970: 737; Flannery 1972: 405; Wright 1977: 392) or were excluded completely (e.g., Claessen and Skalnik 1978). More recently, scholars of complex civilizations have relied on evidence from the Classic Maya (e.g., Smith 2003: 115–45; Trigger 2003: 97–9; Yoffee 2005: 52–3). Several lament the lack of vital archaeological data from the Preclassic period as a reason for its exclusion from conversations about emerging polities (e.g., Smith 2003: 116). Prior discussions of Preclassic politics tend to either focus on specific debates within Maya archaeology (Estrada-Belli 2011) or gloss over hundreds of years of complex processes in the Preclassic with such statements as “evidence for rank societies grew,” “leaders used corvée labor,” “military competition was evidently intense,” “Nakbe emerged as a chiefly center,” or “the paramount center that took over from Nakbe was El Mirador” (Flannery and Marcus 2012: 384–6). Here I shined the spotlight on the Preclassic Maya peoples as an appropriate target of inquiry for comparative studies of emerging political authority, in addition to the Classic Maya royal courts. Several interpretations of Preclassic Maya society, however, continue to cause problems when engaging in broad comparison, especially in the context of ancient cities and states. As V. Gordon Childe (1950: 9) noted, the inclusion of the Maya in discussions of ancient urbanism “impoverished” the minimum criteria for distinguishing city from noncity. A lack of data on the numbers of people or the density of settlement

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around monumental centers in the Preclassic Maya Lowlands precludes a current engagement with questions of urbanism in the ancient world. The emergence of Maya political authority is not explicitly linked to processes of urbanization as identified in other areas of the world, where processes such as population aggregation and intensive agriculture contributed to individuals or groups becoming powerful. In fact, the earliest civic centers were not overt statements of kingly authority based on current evidence. Considering the absence of clear referents of cities and states, the dynamic cycles of population growth and decline strongly suggest that alternative trajectories to political complexity exist within Mesoamerica and, I would argue, even within the Preclassic Maya Lowlands. The clearest evidence we have for the progressions from early communities to Classic-period royal courts comes from the Central Lowlands cultural tradition. This group of sites, which exhibit a transregional cultural affinity for one another, hosted populations that experimented with building scale at levels unmatched by other cultural traditions in the Maya Lowlands. The affinity visible in the archaeological record may mean that the Central Lowlands was indeed a heartland of Preclassic Maya urbanism and set the stage for the political development of Classic city-states. Archaeology has the potential to address broad humanistic questions with comparative material evidence, such as how to reconcile the tension between the individual and the collective in the past. Differences in material expressions of authority between the Central Lowlands tradition and other trajectories, however, may signal to archaeologists that the political landscape of the Maya Lowlands in the Preclassic was far from uniform or easily reducible to models such as core–periphery. Rather, Middle and Late Preclassic built environments are the concrete outgrowths of a highly contested lowland landscape, with multiple stakeholder groups occupying the varied terrain. In the Preclassic Maya case, monumentality played a crucial role in engendering civic belonging, the establishment of sovereign power, and the abandonment of some places that had been forged for generations by the social activities in E-Groups. In the future, the Preclassic Maya should serve as a case study for cross-cultural comparison on subjects such as the materiality and monumentality of kingship; the integration of body, subjectivity, and landscape into the practice and performance of political power; and the intersections of the natural (and supernatural) worlds with human violence (either physical or symbolic) (see Bourdieu 1991) in everyday governance. The Preclassic Maya case could also serve as a venue to examine the dialectical relationship between the built environment and new forms of political authority that are born out of social transformations. Past contexts often exhibit an apparent paradox: actions by many people toward a collective purpose but with the implied coordination of a powerful few. A primary

F I NAL CONSIDER ATIONS

question remains: How did past organizational strategies establish the preconditions for institutionalized hierarchy (Flannery and Marcus 2012: 19)? Late Preclassic Maya art and architecture specifically contain information on how those in power communicated shared values and projected ideal modes of behavior onto subjects, perhaps in times of flux. Monumental buildings serve as visual reminders of how and why individuals subordinated to a collective vision during periods of reorganization and have the potential both to undergird shared identities and allow for a few individuals to convene and guide the collective body. FINAL CONSIDERATIONS

Thus the narrative of Preclassic Maya history unfolds as an arc familiar to scholars of the ancient world. Farming families who had cemented their place on the landscape during countless generations near reliable water sources began to create a built environment that engendered permanence. Over time, people honed their production skills to make the stable structures and durable tools and containers necessary for a comfortable daily life. By building on deep prior knowledge of the tropical forest, farmers began to modify natural cycles with agricultural practices to farm cultigens. Accumulated improvements in the daily lives of settlers coincided with increased long-distance movement of goods and people, facilitating the wide sharing of beliefs, customs, and idioms. In a move to reinforce group identity and/or political authority, communities cooperated – either collectively or under the auspices of a few – to construct bounded gathering spaces and elaborate ritual buildings that set an enduring scene for collective activities. Certain individuals or groups held more sway over the collective body as performances of emerging power created and reinforced institutional hierarchy that crystallized into a long-lasting tradition of divine, dynastic kingship. Protokings embarked on ambitious building projects in their incipient courts that emphasized a restricted access to ritual space, contrasting markedly with prior open spaces and ample ritual platforms. Massive buildings in some places became ruins as the political landscape shifted, causing, or perhaps as a result of, migration and abandonment. Such population movements occurred as many factors pushed and pulled communities from their homelands to new places. Descendant communities coalesced around burgeoning polity capitals and ushered in “Classic” times. More questions for global comparison emerged from the study of El Palmar in the context of the origins of Classic-period society. Why did groups of people respond to socioecological change by pooling resources to build communal structures and spaces across time and (seemingly) independently in all regions of the ancient world (Redman 2005: 70–7; or “socionatural” – see Fisher, Hill, and Feinman 2009; Rosenswig and Burger 2012: 6)? The human

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experience of resilience in the wake of institutional collapse seems inextricably linked with monumental building projects. Perhaps monumentality is a lens through which to examine why the recombination of social and political ties occurred in certain past societies but not in others. This broader comparative work would allow a deeper understanding of how collapses affected subsequent thinking and behavior in times of socioecological resilience in the past (Redman 2005: 72; Tainter 2006: 92). The growing body of literature on contemporary migration and the motivations of people who migrate could rightly inform our conceptions of ancient population movements in time of social stress. Perhaps in other cases, as in the Maya case, what followed a period societal turmoil was a “Classic” period of stable discord: that is, intellectual and artistic greatness but still fraught with violence, political struggles, and wide class disparities.

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INDEX

abandonment, 14, 23, 27, 102, 110, 111, 112, 114, 115, 116, 117, 118, 123, 124, 125, 127, 129, 132, 133, 142, 144, 145 Aimers, James, 64 ajaw, 30, 71, 141 Aztecs, 27, 69 bajos, 18, 49, 66, 81 Balakbal, 47, 63 Balcarcel, Beatriz, 116 Belize, 5, 16, 18, 23, 32, 33, 35, 65, 67, 117 Belize Valley, 21 Bishop, Ronald, xi, 139 Buenavista Valley, 24, 25, 50, 68, 127, 128, 129, 139 Cahal Pech, 34, 35 Calakmul, 8, 20, 24, 46, 62, 69, 86, 87, 95, 106 market murals, 69 Campeche, 18, 23, 24, 45, 87 Caracol, 20, 21, 46, 75, 85, 106 Ceibal, 6, 17, 29, 44, 51, 63, 132 Central Lowlands, 6, 16, 17, 18, 22, 24, 36, 68, 72, 81, 90, 114, 117, 144 ceramics, 33 Early Classic, 113, 132 early Mamom, 49, 50, 51 Late Mamom, 49 Mamom-complex, 53, 54, 58, 68 pre-Mamom, 21, 35 Protoclassic, 126 Type-Variety system, 22 Cerros, 81, 83, 84, 85, 86, 103 Chahk, 77 Chase, Arlen, 20, 21 chert, 29, 54, 66, 67, 99, 110, 129, 131, 132 Chiapa de Corzo, 44 Childe, V. Gordon, 143 Cival, 2, 21, 46, 51, 62, 63, 65, 66, 75, 84, 85, 114, 118, 123, 128 masks, 85 Clark, John, 29, 79

168

Classic-period, 2, 8, 15, 20, 87, 95, 101, 109, 142, 144 Colha, 32 collapse, 5, 14, 108, 109, 112, 113, 114, 115, 124, 135, 139, 143, 146 definition of, 112 construction techniques, 54 apron molding, 73, 74, 75, 81, 89 at El Palmar, 66 friezes, 73, 89, 98 inset corners, 40 masks, 73, 75, 78, 98 plaster, 31, 34, 35, 39, 40, 45, 51, 54, 58, 72, 83 radial pyramids, 63 stairs, 72 stucco, 2, 20, 21, 31, 39, 41, 49, 54, 72, 73, 75, 77, 78, 79, 80, 81, 82, 85, 86, 89, 116, 118, 120, 141 stucco floors, 39 terraces, 72, 107 Copan, 16 Cuello, 34, 35, 51, 65, 66 Culbert, T. Patrick, 22, 99, 116 de Landa, Diego, 95 Dzibilchaltun, 65 Early Classic-period, 5, 25, 49, 58, 64, 81, 86, 89, 99, 100, 102, 103, 106, 110, 113, 117, 119, 120, 124, 125, 128, 129, 130, 131, 132, 133, 136, 137, 138, 139 E-Groups, 13, 18, 20, 21, 23, 24, 25, 37, 38, 40, 42, 43, 44, 45, 46, 47, 48, 49, 56, 57, 58, 59, 60, 61, 62, 63, 64, 65, 66, 67, 68, 69, 70, 71, 74, 75, 77, 78, 79, 81, 83, 85, 86, 87, 90, 91, 93, 94, 95, 97, 98, 99, 100, 101, 102, 103, 105, 106, 107, 108, 110, 113, 116, 119, 120, 124, 129, 130, 131, 138, 140, 141, 142, 144 calendrical rituals, 64 in the Late Classic, 102

IN D EX

monumentalization of, 105 multiple groups per site, 65 solar observation, 64, 69 El Achiotal, 86 El Mirador, 23, 24, 46, 63, 65, 75, 78, 79, 86, 87, 88, 89, 90, 93, 94, 95, 97, 98, 100, 114, 115, 116, 117, 122, 123, 133, 143 abandonment, 115 domesticated turkeys, 117 El Tigre, 93, 94, 118 La Danta, 93, 94 Late Classic, 117 masks, 86 El Palmar, 24, 46, 57 abandonment, 124 abandonment of, 113 and La Avispa, 127 burial, 130, 132 burials, 100 collapse, 139 compounds, 105 Early Classic, 89, 102, 129, 132 Early Classic re-occupation, 100 eastern platform, 81 Late Classic, 91 Late Preclassic, 79, 101 radial pyramid, 81 re-occupation, 132 Templo de Agua, 25, 129, 132, 136, 137 tomb, 102, 135 Triadic Group, 88, 123 El Pesquero, 47, 63, 86, 87 El Zotz, xi, 24, 102, 115, 127, 128, 135, 139 Bejucal, 102, 127, 129, 135, 137, 139 El Diablo, 128, 139 Estrada-Belli, Francisco, 33, 66, 86, 114

Honduras, 16 Houston, Stephen, xi, 74, 77, 78, 85, 95, 106, 112, 113, 124, 127 Hruby, Zachary, xi, 51, 99, 100, 131 Hurst, Heather, 41, 77 identity, 7, 12, 26, 27, 28, 65, 70, 124, 145 Inomata, Takeshi, 6, 29, 51, 99, 112 jade, 51, 105 Joyce, Rosemary, 31 kingship, 3, 23, 29, 30, 38, 78, 84, 87, 95, 103, 104, 107, 110, 112, 113, 115, 127, 129, 141, 144, 145 La Avispa, 127 La Venta, 44 Lamanai, 18, 46, 75, 81 Laporte, Juan Pedro, 20, 22, 45, 49, 51, 64, 79, 98, 101, 102, 113 Proyecto Nacional Tikal, 22 Late Preclassic period, 5 Lohse, Jon, 33

Geographic Information Systems, 8, 59, 64, 69, 127 viewshed, 8, 59, 60, 61, 62, 63, 69 Graham, Ian, 23 Grube, Nikolai, 16, 113 Guatemala, 2, 17, 29, 37, 39, 95

maize, 5, 19, 29, 32, 33, 86, 97, 103, 104, 105, 107, 110, 141, 142 market systems, 68 marketplaces. See market systems Martin, Simon, 16, 69 Matheny, Ray, 78 Maya Lowlands, 6, 7, 9, 12, 15, 18, 29, 31, 33, 34, 37, 44, 45, 59, 66, 68, 70, 73, 91, 107, 115, 129, 140, 144 Mesoamerica, 11, 13, 27, 28, 29, 35, 36, 58, 69, 72, 144 Mexico, 6, 28, 29 Chiapas, 30, 44, 95 Oaxaca, 29, 69 Tabasco, 17, 44 Middle Preclassic period, 5 migration, 14, 110, 127, 139, 142, 145, 146 monumentality, 2, 12, 13, 18, 26, 27, 28, 30, 36, 65, 87, 88, 118, 139, 144, 146 monumentalization, 31, 38, 39, 70, 71, 85, 87, 90, 105, 107, 108 Morales Aguilar, Carlos, 117 Motul de San Jose, 20 Mucaancah, 24, 46, 87

Hansen, Richard, 40, 79, 98, 116, 117 Holmul, 21, 45, 75, 84, 85, 86, 126 masks, 86 Holtun, 20, 46, 75, 85

Naachtun, 47, 63 Nakbe, 24, 40, 46, 51, 52, 62, 63, 72, 86, 87, 114, 116, 117, 143 masks, 86

Fialko, Vilma, 22, 119 Foias, Antonia, 7, 10, 11 Formative Period. See Preclassic Period Freidel, David, 69, 82, 84, 85

169

170

I ND E X

Nakum, 20, 21, 46, 85, 114, 119 Naranjo, 20, 21, 46, 62, 85, 114, 119, 120 Nichtun-Ch’ich’, 20 obsidian, 29, 33, 99, 100, 110, 129, 130, 131, 142 Olmec, 6, 12, 27, 28, 29, 44, 103 colossal heads, 28, 78 Palenque, 16, 39, 74 performance, 10, 11, 13, 35, 71, 76, 105, 107, 144 in the Late Preclassic, 105 Peru Supe Valley, 26 Piedras Negras, 39 political authority, 6, 9, 10, 13, 28, 30, 31, 38, 56, 64, 65, 66, 70, 71, 87, 90, 100, 101, 103, 107, 110, 113, 127, 129, 143, 144, 145 Preclassic collapse, 110, 112 Protoclassic, 116, 117, 119, 125, 126 radial pyramids at San Bartolo, 106 at Tikal, 98 Rathje, William, 69 resilience, 111, 112, 114, 134, 139, 146 Rice, Prudence, 64 Ricketson, Oliver, 76, 98 Ringle, William, 28, 33, 34, 68 Río Azul, 41 Runggaldier, Astrid, 115 San Bartolo, 22, 23, 30, 40, 46, 54, 61, 76, 77, 86, 103, 104, 106, 107, 114, 115, 123, 129 abandonment, 115 ball court, 106, 107 early writing, 85 masks, 77, 86 murals, 11, 76, 103, 105 San Lorenzo, 12, 27, 28, 29 Saturno, William, 23 Schele, Linda, 84 Seler, Eduard, 75 Smith, Adam T., 10, 11, 27, 143 social inequality, 29, 33 sovereignty, 10 Stuart, David, 68 subjectivities, 11, 144 Taube, Karl, 97 Teotihuacan, 5, 100, 117, 120, 131

Terminal Preclassic, 75, 81, 99, 102, 119, 121 Tikal, xi, 2, 8, 22, 24, 25, 46, 47, 54, 56, 58, 59, 60, 66, 73, 77, 79, 94, 95, 98, 100, 101, 102, 106, 107, 113, 114, 127, 129, 130 ceramics, 21, 99, 116 Early Classic, 103, 113, 138 Late Classic, 20 masks, 77, 86 Middle Preclassic, 51 Mundo Perdido, 22, 47, 48, 51, 66, 77, 79, 80, 81, 98, 101, 102, 127 North Acropolis, 22, 77, 85, 94, 102, 118, 120 Structure 5C-54, 47, 49, 98, 101 Tintal, 23 Triadic Groups, 18, 25, 71, 75, 81, 85, 86, 87, 88, 89, 90, 91, 92, 97, 102, 103, 107, 113, 119, 120, 122, 123, 124, 135, 136, 138, 139 political authority, 87 Uaxactun, 22, 23, 35, 40, 43, 46, 61, 66, 75, 77, 86, 94, 98, 100, 103, 107, 114, 120, 129, 130 ceramics, 22, 49, 68 Classic-period, 95 E-VII-sub, 73, 75, 79, 98 Group H, 121 masks, 76, 86 urban planning, 90 and agriculture, 95 and the human body, 97 at Calakmul, 95 at El Mirador, 93 at El Palmar, 92 at Tikal and Uaxactun, 94 cosmological and moral implications of, 97 in the Late Preclassic, 100 systems of cords, 97 urbanism, 2, 3, 9, 36, 143, 144 Usumacinta River, 16, 65 Uxul, 47, 63 Wakna, 23, 46, 63 Webster, David, 115 witz, 76, 78, 86, 104, 105 Xulnal, 23, 47, 63 Xultun, 115 Yaxha, 20, 21, 37, 38, 46, 63, 65, 75, 85, 95, 114, 119, 120, 121, 128 Yaxnohcah, 24, 46, 87 Yaxuna, 65