The Rise of Formative-Period Complex Societies in the Northern Maya Lowlands

Travis W. Stanton

in The Oxford Handbook of Mesoamerican Archaeology

Published in print September 2012 | ISBN: 9780195390933
Published online November 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks

The Rise of Formative-Period Complex Societies in the Northern Maya Lowlands

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This article reviews archaeological evidence on the development of Formative-period communities in the northern Maya lowlands. The earliest data available for a Maya occupation of the northern lowlands indicate a fairly complex society with strong, but distinct, cultural ties to their neighbors to the south. These data have spawned speculations that the northern lowlands were populated by Maya migrating out of the south, but the evidence to date remains ambiguous. It is now known that large sites existed in the Late Formative and that the Maya of the northern lowlands experienced a similar collapse as that documented for the southern lowlands. The pace and pattern of this development, collapse, and transition to the Classic era, however, have yet to be teased out of the archaeological data. Finally, while there is solid evidence that the northern lowland Maya developed the institution of divine kingship in the Early Classic period, there is scant evidence of Teotihuacan “influence” among the northern kingdoms.

Keywords: complex society; Maya civilization; Mayan communities; divine kingship

Article.  6110 words. 

Subjects: Archaeology ; Archaeology by Region

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