Decentralizing the Economies of the Maya West


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 functioned as significant nodes in trade networks, the networks themselves were maintained by hinterland elites. These elites functioned as critical allies for the royal courts and must have provided goods and services to those courts. But hinterland sites were also centers of production in their own right, with exchange networks that did not always intersect with those of the royal center. Hinterland elites pursued their own ambitions and sought local economic benefits that sometimes diverged from the best interests of the courts. In this paper we present the results of research in the hinterlands of Yaxchilan and Piedras Negras, and consider these data in light of a decentered model of Classic Maya economies.

Cite this Record

Decentralizing the Economies of the Maya West. Charles Golden, Andrew Scherer, Whittaker Schroder, Clive Vella. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Orlando, Florida. 2016 ( tDAR id: 403012)


Economy Maya Mesoamerica

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