Nuts and Bolts of the Real "Business" of Ancient Maya Exchange (Part 2)

Part of: Society for American Archaeology 81st Annual Meeting, Orlando, FL (2016)

It is time for scholars to work together to model the basic framework of Maya economies across time and space. This session moves beyond simple descriptions of broadly characterized "exchange" between "centers" or "states" by tracking the specific activities and features that bound economies together at different levels of the social hierarchy. A more relativistic approach highlights local variation and sidesteps the pitfalls of artificial dichotomies, ideal types, or presence/absence queries regarding key economic institutions. Papers in this session draw on diverse interdisciplinary categories of evidence essential for reconstructing a more accurate model of a range of specific economic activities that were potentially articulated with one another into complex and dynamic systems. We focus on specific evidence for agents, facilities, transport mechanisms, webs of debt, constraints and freedoms, strategies for and challenges to stability, and commodities that were made and exchanged according to gradations of value. These factors, among others to be evaluated, were the nuts and bolts that held society and economy together through the longue durée of Maya society. Important variation on the local level revealed by symposium papers will provide the dimensions that are necessary in moving toward a new synthesis.

Geographic Keywords
MesoamericaCentral America

Resources Inside This Collection (Viewing 1-11 of 11)

  • Documents (11)

  • "Bundling the sticks": tallies in Classic Maya inscriptions (2016)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Alexandre Tokovinine.

    This presentation addresses a set of references to “sticks” in Classic Maya inscriptions, which have been traditionally interpreted as weapons. The available contexts, however, indicate that “sticks” were involved in tribute payment transactions. Although there is no archaeological evidence of these presumably perishable wooden items, the author highlights some visual and material data that support the use of tallies by the Maya. The discussion then centers on less straightforward textual...

  • The Contents, Roles and Meanings of "Tribute" among the Classic Maya (2016)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Dorie Reents-Budet. Ronald Bishop.

    Ethnohistorical accounts of tribute among the Yukatek Maya provide an impressive list of commodities in circulation at the time of Spanish contact while also affording a glimpse of the interwoven layers of socio-economic relationships underlying these acts of tribute and tax payments. This paper compares the Yukatekan configurations, both recorded and implied, with those intimated from the patterns of production and distribution of Classic period decorated ceramics. The study employs a...

  • Decentralizing the Economies of the Maya West (2016)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Charles Golden. Andrew Scherer. Whittaker Schroder. Clive Vella.

    Many reconstructions of Precolumbian Maya economies are based on a centralized model of exchange, in which major capitals acted as import and export hubs and centers of production, while royal courts provided some form of management for long-distance trade networks. Research in the Western Maya Lowlands, and particularly the Usumacinta River Valley, suggests that although during the Classic period (AD 250 – 810) powerful dynastic centers like Piedras Negras, Yaxchilan and their neighbors...

  • A Discrepancy between Elite Office and Economic Status in the El Palmar Dynasty, Mexico (2016)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Kenichiro Tsukamoto.

    The identification of elite titles through epigraphic studies has raised new questions about the relationship between elite office and economic status. The present study focuses on a social group referred to by the title lakam, which was detected in the inscriptions of a hieroglyphic stairway at the El Palmar archaeological site. Our epigraphic studies revealed the involvement of lakam officials as emissaries in political alliances between El Palmar, Calakmul, and Copán, suggesting that they...

  • E-Groups and the Origins of Ancient Maya Exchange (2016)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only James Doyle.

    Many communities in the Maya Lowlands began when residents banded together to create E-Groups by leveling bedrock, paving over large plazas, and building modest pyramidal architecture. This presentation traces the spread of E-Groups after 700 BC as a product of two trends: the replication of a primordial place characterized by solar movement and a central living mountain, and the social and commercial gathering of peoples to exchange goods and ideas on a regular basis. The people producing and...

  • Economic Interaction and the Rise of Socio-Political Complexity in the Maya Lowlands: The Case from the Mirador Basin (2016)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Richard Hansen. Edgar Suyuc. Stanley Guenter. Beatriz Balcarcel. Carlos Morales.

    Investigations in 51 ancient cities of varying sizes in the Mirador Basin of northern Guatemala have revealed a variety of data relevant to the economic catalysts that were involved in the rise of social, political, and economic sophistication among the Preclassic Maya. The real "business" of the early Maya dealt with agricultural productivity and a powerful distribution mechanism to distribute and facilitate unification among a web of sites in the Mirador Basin. However, a variety of other...

  • Gardens of the Maya (2016)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Andrew Wyatt.

    Houselot gardens are defined as cultivated spaces adjacent to households used to grow flowers, herbs, vegetables, and fruits. Gardens function as a primary source of many food items including staples, condiments, medicines, and spices; they provide many non-food items such as dyes, construction materials, or ornamentals; and also often provide food to sell in markets. Crops grown in houselot gardens encompass primary and secondary crops as well as those grown for both individual household use...

  • Large-Scale Production of Basic Commodities at Salinas de los Nueve Cerros, Guatemala: Implications for Ancient Maya Political Economy (2016)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Brent Woodfill.

    Salinas de los Nueve Cerros is a major Precolumbian Maya city that grew around the only non-coastal salt source in the Maya lowlands. Residents of the city were able to transform the neighborhoods adjacent to and atop the salt dome into a large-scale production operation with the capacity to produce over 10,000 metric tons of salt a year, which were then distributed throughout the western lowlands via the Chixoy, Pasión, and Usumacinta river networks. By the Late Classic period, the city had...

  • Maya Economic Organization and Power: Elite Households at Aguateca (2016)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Daniela Triadan. Takeshi Inomata.

    The rich data from elite households at the Classic site of Aguateca indicate that each household was a relatively autonomous economic unit of production and consumption of staples and utilitarian goods. While individual households were also specializing in the production of a variety of prestige items, there is little evidence for central control of any sphere of the economy by the royal court or elites. Individual households also seem to have maintained their own long-distance relationships...

  • The Political Geography of Long-Distance Trade in the Maya Lowlands: Comparing Proxies for Power Structure and Exchange Networks (2016)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Beniamino Volta. Joel D. Gunn.

    A critical issue for understanding the relationships between Maya political geography and long-distance economic exchange is that many trade goods are archaeologically invisible. Iconographic depictions of feathers, cacao, and textiles—along with evidence for production and the sheer biological necessity of salt—indicate that these goods were widely traded alongside more durable items such as obsidian, jadeite, marine products, and ceramics. This paper explores the possibility of using political...

  • Production, maintenance, and exchange in a young Maya community: Ceren, El Salvador (2016)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Payson Sheets.

    What is now El Salvador was devastated by the Ilopango eruption, probably in AD 536. A small group of Maya immigrants founded the Ceren village in the uncontested landscape some three decades later. Only about four generations lived in and constructed the functioning community before it was buried by the tephra from the Loma Caldera eruption in about AD 650. Production and maintenance activities of the recently discovered sacbe are presented, along with its various functions. Evidence indicates...