Between earth and sky: the social and political construction of ancient lowland Maya territories

Author(s): Lisa LeCount; David W. Mixter; Lisa J. LeCount

Year: 2015


This paper introduces the Lowland Maya Territories: Local Dynamics in Regional Landscapes symposium that critiques the current model of territories as stable geo-political entities. We use data from the Actuncan Archaeological Project and other upper Belize River valley projects to suggest that territories were in flux, reacting and changing to social and political relationships. Territorial dynamism is driven by at least two processes: the social construction of place and the political construction of territories. We suggest that a territory is defined by the geographic extent of political authority as established through alliances, voluntary subjugation, coercion, or other integrative practices that bound centers and hinterland communities to capitals. Rather than bounded entities, territories are conceptualized as networks of politically connected sites. Their long-term stability was dependent on the social construction of place that imbued meaning and emotional attachments to people, land, and spaces over time. However, social and political constructions were often in conflict when political competition over homelands reshaped territories. The inherent tensions between dynamism and stability are exemplified at Actuncan and other sites the upper Belize river valley through shifting political capitals, settlement patterns, architectural and pottery styles, and veneration practices through time.

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Cite this Record

Between earth and sky: the social and political construction of ancient lowland Maya territories. Lisa LeCount, Lisa J. LeCount, David W. Mixter. Presented at The 80th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, San Francisco, California. 2015 ( tDAR id: 395254)


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Spatial Coverage

min long: -107.271; min lat: 12.383 ; max long: -86.353; max lat: 23.08 ;