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Piedras Negras and Yaxchilan: Divergent Political Trajectories in Adjacent Maya Polities

  • Charles Golden (a1), Andrew K. Scherer (a2), A. René Muñoz (a3) and Rosaura Vasquez (a4)

Abstract

In this article we present a synthetic overview and preliminary analysis of the data collected by members of the Sierra del Lacandón Regional Archaeology Project (SLRAP) during four field seasons of research from 2003 to 2007. We examine the growth, development, and transformation of the Classic Maya polities of Piedras Negras, Guatemala, and Yaxchilan, Mexico, located in the Middle Usumacinta Basin. This analysis uses a conjunctive approach, incorporating analyses of iconography, epigraphy, settlement patterns, ceramics, mortuary patterns, and architectural styles. During the Late Preclassic period (c. 250 B.C.-A.D. 350) settlement was scattered widely across the study region and Piedras Negras and Yaxchilan were only two of a number of other equally powerful Preclassic communities. In the Early Classic period (c. A.D. 350-600) royal dynasties were established at both Piedras Negras and Yaxchilan and the population of the region became concentrated at these two sites. During the Late Classic period (c. A.D. 600-810) the political frontier between Piedras Negras and Yaxchilan was repopulated and transformed into a contested border zone surrounding a political boundary. This territorial expansion culminated in endemic warfare by the eighth century A.D., which may have ultimately led to the demise of these two Maya polities.

Resumen

En este artículo presentamos la visión sintética y los resultados de los analices preliminares de los datos recolectados por los miembros del Proyecto Arqueológico Sierra del Lacandón (PRASL) durante los cuatro temporadas de campo, desde 2003 a 2007. Discutimos el crecimiento, el desarrollo, y la transformación de las entidades políticas mayas del periodo Clásico de Piedras Negras, Guatemala y Yaxchilan, México, ambos ubicados en la cuenca media del Río Usumacinta. Utilizamos un método conjuntivo, que incluye los análisis de iconografía, epigrafía, patrones de asentamiento, la cerámica, patrones funerarios, y estilos arquitectónicos. Durante el periodo Preclásico (c. 250 a.C.-d.C. 350) los asentamientos fueron ubicados en un gran parte de la region del estudio, y Piedras Negras y Yaxchilan constituyeron solamente dos sitios entre varias comunidades Preclásicos sin una jerarquía política entre ellos. Durante el periodo Clásico temprano (c.d.C. 350-600) las dinastías reales fueron establecidos en Piedras Negras y Yaxchilan, y las poblaciones regionales abandonaron el gran parte del paisaje y se concentraron dentro de núcleos y los alrededores del los dos sitios. Durante el periodo Clásico tardío (c. d.C. 600-810) el limite político entre los reinos fue reocupado y transformado, volviendolo una zona fronteriza contestada. La expansión territorial culminó en guerra endémica en el siglo octavo y noveno, lo cual formó parte de la destrucción de ambas entidades políticas.

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Piedras Negras and Yaxchilan: Divergent Political Trajectories in Adjacent Maya Polities

  • Charles Golden (a1), Andrew K. Scherer (a2), A. René Muñoz (a3) and Rosaura Vasquez (a4)

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