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The Obsidian Order at Copan: A Discussion of Science, Education, and Institutions in Late Classic Statecraft

Author(s): Franco Rossi

Year: 2017

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This paper investigates an order of ranked specialists marked by title Taaj ("obsidian"), as they occur at Late Classic Copan. This "obsidian order" was first identified on a mural at the site of Xultun, Guatemala, where archaeological evidence revealed that its members held expertise in indigenous Maya sciences, ritual practice and codex book production. Since then, the Taaj have been identified at several Classic Maya centers besides Xultun—with the texts of Copan providing the most detailed account of one Taaj in particular who lived during the reign of the 16th Copan king, Yax Pasaj Chan Yopaat; as well as mentioning another Taaj alongside the earlier, ill-fated ruler "18 Rabbit" (Waxaklajun Ubaah K’awiil). This paper constitutes a focused inquiry into the relationship between these Taaj, their rulers, and the courts of which they were a part, presenting associated archaeological evidence and considering related epigraphic data in the process. Through such analyses of the Taaj at Copan, I hope to shed light on a previously unknown aspect of Maya courtly life and pedagogy that is relevant to our models of sovereignty, ritual performance and knowledge transmission in the Classic Maya world.

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The Obsidian Order at Copan: A Discussion of Science, Education, and Institutions in Late Classic Statecraft. Franco Rossi. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 431165)


Geographic Keywords

Spatial Coverage

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

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 15605

Arizona State University The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation National Science Foundation National Endowment for the Humanities Society for American Archaeology Archaeological Institute of America