The Nature of an Ancient Maya City: Resources, Interaction, and Power at Blue Creek, Belize

The Nature of an Ancient Maya City: Resources, Interaction, and Power at Blue Creek, Belize

The Nature of an Ancient Maya City: Resources, Interaction, and Power at Blue Creek, Belize

The Nature of an Ancient Maya City: Resources, Interaction, and Power at Blue Creek, Belize

Synopsis

For two millennia, the site now known as Blue Creek in northwestern Belize was a Maya community that became an economic and political center that included some 15,000-20,000 people at its height. Fairly well protected from human destruction, the site offers the full range of city components including monumental ceremonial structures, elite and non-elite residences, ditched agricultural fields, and residential clusters just outside the core. Since 1992, a multi-disciplinary, multi-national research team has intensively investigated Blue Creek in an integrated study of the dynamic structure and functional inter-relationships among the parts of a single Maya city. Documented in coverage by "National Geographic," "Archaeology" magazine, and a documentary film aired on the Discovery Channel, Blue Creek is recognized as a unique site offering the full range of undisturbed architectural construction to reveal the mosaic that was the ancient city. Moving beyond the debate of what constitutes a city, Guderjan's long-term research reveals what daily Maya life was like. "

Excerpt

The primary purpose of this book is to examine the spatial and structural organization of the ancient Maya city of Blue Creek in northwestern Belize. These are archaeologically observable variables that directly reflect the nature of power, legitimacy, and authority. Other questions of importance include, What were the economic resources of the city? Who controlled them? How did the persons in power interact with each other and with other cities? While there is debate about whether ancient Maya communities were cities or not, I take the position that we cannot impose models of urbanism developed elsewhere onto the Maya. Instead, to understand Maya cities, it is necessary to create models of them in their own terms. In other words, the semantic wall created by the “cities or not” debate does little to enhance our understanding of ancient Maya life. Whether we call them “cities” is less important than whether we can understand what Maya life was about.

Another goal of this volume is to introduce the reader to the archaeology of Blue Creek, a Maya community that existed for two millennia. Over time, it became an economic and political center of some 15–20 thousand people. Since 1992, Blue Creek has been the focus of a multidisciplinary, multinational research effort. This research has created new insights into the Blue Creek Maya and the ancient Maya in general. However, many new questions have been raised and remain unanswered. This is, of course, the nature of archaeological research and all scientific inquiry. Therefore, I hope that Blue Creek as a case study provides the reader with a better understanding of what we know and what we do not about this fascinating part of humanity's past.

Finally, this is a case study of the complexity of large- scale archaeological research. How archaeologists come to know about the past is often an obtuse process, unlike that in most sciences. Further, understanding this process has become a justifiable obsession of many scholars in the field. Some of our best- known scholars are not known for their “great discoveries” but for their contributions to our methodologies. Most fieldworkers are like myself—we focus on understanding the past . . .

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