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Surviving The Maya Collapse At Actuncan, Belize

  • 21 Oct 2021
  • 6:00 PM (EDT)
  • Virtual

Surviving The Maya Collapse At Actuncan, Belize

AIA Society: East TN (Knoxville)
Lecturer: David W. Mixter

In the southern Maya Lowlands, the 9th century featured a major political and demographic collapse precipitated by a combination of elite overreach, expanding warfare, disruption of trade networks, and an increasingly unstable climate. At this time, most communities that survived in place and were forced to negotiate new forms of political authority and legitimacy. In this talk, I present the ancient Maya site of Actuncan, located in western Belize as a case study of collapse-era survival and transformation. Excavations, activity area analysis, and urban planning data from Actuncan, located in western Belize, indicate that the local community transformed their political institutions—abandoning the hierarchical system of divine kingship in favor of an inclusive political system that was largely disentangled from religious precepts. This is just one of several strategies adopted by communities in the upper Belize River Valley region. Based on this case study and nearby data, I argue that 9th century Maya sociopolitical was an inherently local process, anchored in communities’ deep-rooted social traditions and memories of their past.


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