Collapse, transformation, reorganization

The Terminal Classic transition in the Maya world

Authored by: Jason Yaeger

The Maya World

Print publication date:  June  2020
Online publication date:  June  2020

Print ISBN: 9781138492837
eBook ISBN: 9781351029582
Adobe ISBN:


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Maya civilization underwent a profound transformation between the late 8th and the early 11th centuries AD, a span of time generally called the Terminal Classic period (AD 800–1000; but see Rice and Forsyth 2004 for a cogent warning against treating the Terminal Classic as an archaeological horizon). During the Late Classic period (AD 600–800), most Lowland Maya polities were characterized by large populations, robust market economies, intensive agricultural systems, and complex administrative structures (see Chapter 24 by King, Chapter 27 by Dunning, Beach, and Luzzadder-Beach). While each polity had its own history (Marcus 1998), most reached their apogee during the 8th century AD. They were ruled by divine kings called k’uhul ajawtaak, who lived in large palaces and recorded their histories and genealogies on bark paper codices and public monuments. Their royal ancestors were buried in monumental mausolea, where commemorative rituals linked the authority of the current dynast to his or her royal predecessors.

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