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STATES AND EMPIRES IN ANCIENT MESOAMERICA

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 April 2010

Arlen F. Chase
Affiliation:
Department of Anthropology, University of Central Florida, P.O. Box 25000, Orlando, FL 32816-1320
Diane Z. Chase
Affiliation:
Department of Anthropology, University of Central Florida, P.O. Box 25000, Orlando, FL 32816-1320
Michael E. Smith
Affiliation:
School of Human Evolution and Social Change, Arizona State University, Box 872402, Tempe, AZ 85287-2402
Corresponding
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Abstract

Ancient Mesoamerican polities are an important source of data for considerations of state development, despite internal debate over their size and complexity. We review complex political units, usually referred to as “states” and “empires,” in ancient Mesoamerica and reach the following conclusions: these polities tended to be hegemonic, rather than territorial, in composition; they melded ritual and political action; and they utilized the ruler as a symbol of the “body politic.” We also note the apparently larger size of most Maya polities as compared to other Mesoamerican city-states. Besides reviewing the commonalities among ancient Mesoamerican states, we also highlight the variation among these polities and the need to consider historic and archaeological data contextually in making interpretations of political structure.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2010

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