February 1, 2023

Maya Rulers Transformed Cities, Put Their Personal Stamp on Monumental Complexes

Maya ruins in Tikal, Guatemala 2009. Credit: Chensiyuan
Maya rulers changed cities, creating new memories of the landscape.
Early Maya cities included monumental complexes, which fixated a shared type of religion however these complexes transformed significantly when kingship emerged in 400 B.C. To strengthen their power, rulers throughout the Maya lowlands would alter these complexes, installing their mark on the landscape and improving how individuals remember it, according to a Dartmouth research study published in Ancient Mesoamerica.
” Just as politicians today often look for to brand themselves, so too did early Maya rulers,” says Ryan H. Collins, a postdoctoral fellow in sociology at the Neukom Institute for Computational Science at Dartmouth. “Maya rulers appeared to have genuine angst about the previous world and think that it could disrupt their authority, so they would try to modify it, and even erase it altogether. These rulers saw themselves as the embodiment of the Maya sun god and wished to put their individual stamp on the city, so monoliths and the ways people experienced the city were modified to reflect a rulers desires over his or her lifetime.”
( a) Circular structure present on floor 8, just west of Str. 5E-6; (b) fragment of refined magnetite discovered along with other artifacts cached in a pair of intentional cuts on flooring seven; (c) circular incised line present on floor six; (d) complete ceramic redware vessel cached in flooring 4 related to 2 greenstone beads. Credit: Ryan H. Collins
Collins took a look at data from the Maya site, Yaxuná, located in central Yucatán, Mexico, and other pyramid plaza complexes or temples understood as E groups in the Maya lowlands, including San Bartolo, Tikal, Ceibal in Guatemala, and Cahal Pech in Belize, which reflected observed huge alignments with the equinoxes and solstices.

” Just as political leaders today frequently look for to brand themselves, so too did early Maya rulers,” states Ryan H. Collins, a postdoctoral fellow in anthropology at the Neukom Institute for Computational Science at Dartmouth. “Maya rulers appeared to have real angst about the previous world and think that it might interfere with their authority, so they would try to modify it, or even erase it completely. These rulers saw themselves as the embodiment of the Maya sun god and wanted to put their individual stamp on the city, so monuments and the ways people experienced the city were customized to show a rulers desires over his or her lifetime.”
“The Maya would go back and mark areas of social significance generations later on, not centuries later, illustrating how individuals were really highlighting memory and connection with things that they thought were crucial,” says Collins.
” In archaeology, there has been the presumption that Maya kingship represented a connection with the past however as Maya rulers changed peoples experience of where they lived, these rulers were in fact breaking away from Mesoamerican structure customs and redefining the Maya city,” says Collins.

In the E group, each monumental complex was developed along an east-west axis and was identified by a pyramid to the west and a long-raised platform to the east. Prior research has actually found that the huge positionings of Maya complexes were likely a recommendation to the sun god and maize (corn) god and the yearly changes of the farming season.
According to historical data from Yaxuná and the other sites, Collins found that by 400 B.C., many Maya complexes in the E Group were either developed on top of existing temples, taken apart, or deserted entirely. In most cases, brand-new architecture would be constructed right on top of everything that was there before, where there might 5, six, and even 7 pyramids preserved under the current phase of building.
Map of Maya lowlands in eastern Mesoamerica. Credit: Ryan H. Collins
” Over time, these temples became more about the rulers and less about the ritual and religious beliefs that as soon as brought the communities together in the first place,” states Collins. While brand-new monoliths within the E Group were developed over old ones, some elements were kept through time. “The Maya would go back and mark areas of social significance generations later, not centuries later, showing how individuals were really highlighting memory and connection with things that they thought were important,” says Collins.
Other locations of the Yaxuná website and other E Group sites however, contained evidence of termination routines. These routines were utilized to damage the energy or soul connected with a structure, particularly if it was spiritual, such as by spreading the ash of scorched incense over a location. In the eastern structure at Yaxuná, ash was discovered near a grinding stone, providing evidence that a previous area for routines was utilized to prepare food in later years.
” In archaeology, there has been the assumption that Maya kingship represented a continuity with the past however as Maya rulers altered peoples experience of where they lived, these rulers were really breaking away from Mesoamerican building customs and redefining the Maya city,” states Collins. “The very first centuries of Maya culture for the E Group marks a period for not only brand-new monuments however for the advancement of huge civic architecture, as massive streets were built and districts began to emerge. These changes also may have driven Maya civilizations shift from an egalitarian society to a more hierarchical structure.”
Recommendation: “Selective Memory: Monumental Politics of the Yaxuná E Group in the First Millennium B.C.” by Ryan H. Collins, 23 August 2021, Ancient Mesoamerica.DOI: 10.1017/ S0956536121000304.

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