Dedicated to classics and hits.

Monday, February 13, 2012


Maya History And Religion
by J. Eric S. Thompson
University of Oklahoma
p. 1979
Civilization of the American Indian Series No. 99


     I've now read this book twice- I read it at the beginning of last year and didn't really get it, since then I've read, Maya Resistance to Spanish Rule: Time and History on A Colonial Frontier (REVIEW 9/29/11), The Conquest of the Last Mayan Kingdom (Review 10/9/11) both by Grant T. Jones, Quiche Conquest: Centralism and Regionalism in Highland Guatemalan State Development by John W. Fox (Review 10/12/11) and The Caste War of Yucatan by Nelson Reed (Review 10/24/11.)

    As I've written before, there are two main subjects in Mayan History, The Classic Period (up to 900 AD) and the Post-Classic Period (until Spanish contact and after.)  Historically, the Classic Period received the lion's share of the attention, with the post-classic period given less attention. 

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   In terms of the post-classic period history, Thompson's main thesis is that the Putun Maya were the main "movers and shakers" in the post classic period in a way that the Macedonians were the main movers and shakers of post-classic Greek history prior to the Romans.  The Putun had their home base at the southern end of the Gulf of Mexico, and in that place they had contact with the dynamic Mexican civilization located to the North.   Thompson hypothesizes that the Putun Maya sent out multiple conquering parties to the East, where they established the Mayan dynasty at Chichen Itza and to the South, where satellite kingdoms were set up in the river valley's of contemporary Guatemala

   Thompson identified two major invasions to the east, the earlier of which was more "Mayan" in composition, and the later of which was more Mexican- it is from this second, lesser invasion that the idea of post-Classic Mayan domination by the Mexican's arose.  In fact, post-classic Mayan Empires were likely a blend of existing Mayan elites with an overlay of Mexican warrior culture. 

    More recent scholarship postulates that initial Mayan civilization was inspired by the Olmec- see the recent articles in the New York Times by archaeologists excavating the Ceibal site in Guatemala. (NEW YORK TIMES)

  I am left with the distinct impression that pre-Contact Mesoamerica developed arm in arm as it were, with the initial moves forward made by the Olmec and a key event being the domestication of Maize- which allowed complex civilizations to flourish in the areas inhabited by the Maya.

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