In this new archaeological study, Arthur Demarest brings the lost pre-Columbian civilization of the Maya to life. In applying a holistic perspective to the most recent evidence from archaeology, paleoecology, and epigraphy, this theoretical interpretation emphasises both the brilliant rain forest adaptations of the ancient Maya and the Native American spirituality that permeated all aspects of their daily life. Demarest draws on his own discoveries and the findings of colleagues to reconstruct the complex lifeways and volatile political history of the Classic Maya states of the first to eighth centuries. He provides a new explanation of the long-standing mystery of the ninth-century abandonment of most of the great rain forest cities. Finally, he draws lessons from the history of the Classic Maya cities for contemporary society and for the ongoing struggles and resurgence of the modern Maya peoples, who are now re-emerging from six centuries of oppression.
Dr Demarest is the Ingram Professor of Anthropology at Vanderbilt University, Tennessee. For more than twenty-five years he has directed archaeological field excavations at ancient sites in the highlands, coasts and rain forests of Central America and is considered a leading authority on early Olmec, particularly Mayan civilization.
1. The mystery and the challenge of the Ancient Maya; 2. Background: geography, chronology, and theoretical perspective; 3. The exploration and archaeology of the Maya: a brief history; 4. Obscure beginnings and the preclassic florescence; 5. The splinter of classic Maya florescence in the lowlands; 6. Settlement and subsistence: the rain forest adaptation; 7. Classic Maya economics; 8. Religion and ideology: beliefs and ritual of the theater state; 9. Classic Maya politics and history: the dynamics of the theater state; 10. The end of classic Maya civilization: collapse, transition, and transformation; 11. The legacy of the classic Maya civilization: postclassic, colonial, and modern traditions; 12. The lessons of Maya history and prehistory.