Elite Maya Social Identity at a Hinterland Community: The View from Medicinal Trail, NW Belize

Author(s): David Hyde

Year: 2018


Social identification is the perception of oneness with, or belongingness to, some human aggregate. The definition of others and self is largely relational and comparative. Archaeologists demonstrate Maya elite identity by comparing them to non-elites in terms of energy expenditure in burial preparation, house and platform construction, access to luxury items, and cranial and dental modifications. Although non-elites include some urban residents and all hinterland residents, this study proposes that some hinterland residents also identified as elites. The Medicinal Trail Community is a hinterland settlement with considerable variation in household complexity, ranging from simple perishable structures informally arranged, to households on elevated platforms formally arranged around a courtyard. The latter residents attempted to adopt the social identity of the urban elites by using the symbols and material culture of the "Urban Elites," therefore becoming "Hinterland Elites." As a result, these "Hinterland Elites" economic and socio-political status was elevated above most of the community’s inhabitants, providing them with limited social power. Although their elite identity was probably not acknowledged by the urban centers, by distinguishing themselves from those in their immediate community, they used this identity to gain and maintain power within the community.

Cite this Record

Elite Maya Social Identity at a Hinterland Community: The View from Medicinal Trail, NW Belize. David Hyde. Presented at The 82nd Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Washington, DC. 2018 ( tDAR id: 443848)

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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): 22356