All Politics Isn’t Local: The Role of Oxpemul in Classic Maya Geopolitics


Oxpemul was one of several centers surrounding the city of Calakmul, within the region known as Uxte’tuun. Archaeological research at Oxpemul reflects occupation continuity from the Formative through Classic periods. However, hieroglyphic inscriptions indicate a late fluorescence in the mid to late eighth century. This paper explains this seeming contradiction from the perspective of broader geopolitical dynamics, particularly the rivalry between Calakmul and Tikal. Unlinke other centers in Uxte’tuun, the dynastic history of Oxpemul is silent during the height of the Kaanul (Snake) Dynasty during the ‘Three Kings Period’ (AD 635-730), when Calakmul exerted direct rulership over subordinate kingdoms in Uxte’tuun. This could reflect either stagnation and decline, or a later rewriting of history following major political upheaval in the region. Following the decline of the Snake Dynasty, Oxpmeul undertook a major campaign of monument construction, with kings holding both the local ‘stone throne’ and the enigmatic ‘bat head’ emblem glyph. These data indicate that Oxpemul benefitted from the decline of its more powerful neighbor and rose to regional preeminence under the aegis of Tikal. The history of Oxpemul provides an important window in the political strategies adopted by expansionist hegemonic states during the Classic Period.

Cite this Record

All Politics Isn’t Local: The Role of Oxpemul in Classic Maya Geopolitics. Jerald Ek, Ricardo Armijo Torres, William Folan, Hubert Robichaux. Presented at The 82nd Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Washington, DC. 2018 ( tDAR id: 443241)

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Spatial Coverage

min long: -94.197; min lat: 16.004 ; max long: -86.682; max lat: 21.984 ;

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 21062