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Elite Artists and Craft Producers in Classic Maya Society: Lithic Evidence from Aguateca, Guatemala

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  20 January 2017

Kazuo Aoyama*
Ibaraki University, Bunkyo 2-1-1, Mito, Ibaraki, 310-8512, Japan (
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This report examines 10,845 lithic artifacts from the rapidly abandoned city of Aguateca, Guatemala, to elucidate elite artistic and craft production in Classic Maya society. The methods used include high-power microwear analysis. The results suggest that significant numbers of Maya elite, both men and women, engaged in artistic creation and craft production, often working in both attached and independent contexts. The royal family and other elite households produced many artistic and craft items, including wood carvings and hide or leather goods. The scribe inhabiting Structure M8-8 carved stelae for the ruler, and the high-status courtier/scribe living in Structure M8-4 emphasized the production of shell and bone objects and other royal regalia in a courtly setting. Clearly, Aguateca was a center of part-time production of both utilitarian and luxury goods as well as of consumption. Classic Maya elite men and women artists/craft producers possessed multiple social identities and roles, which in turn implies a more flexible and integrated system of Classic Maya elite participating in attached and independent craft production more than is usually proposed.



Estudiamos 10.845 artefactos líticos provenientes de la ciudad de Aguateca, Guatemala, que fue rápidamente abandonada, con el fin de analizar la producción artística y artesanal de las élites en la sociedad maya clásica. Entre los métodos empleados se usó el análisis de microhuellas de uso de alta resolución. Los resultados sugieren que una porción significativa de la élite maya, tanto hombres como mujeres, se dedicó a la creación artística y producción artesanal, trabajando frecuentemente en contextos de producción tanto dependiente como independiente. La familia real y otros grupos familiares de las élites produjeron muchas artesanías, incluyendo las de madera y cuero. El escribano de la Estructura M8-8 esculpió estelas para el gobernante, y el cortesano/escribano de alto rango de la Estructura M8-4 enfatizó la producción de objetos de concha y hueso con alto valor simbólico real en la corte. Claramente, la ciudad de Aguateca fue un centro de producción, de tiempo parcial, de bienes utilitarios y lujosos como de consumo. Los artistas/artesanos de las élites tuvieron múltiples roles e identidades sociales, lo que implica la presencia de un sistema más flexible e integrado en las élites mayas clásicas, con una mayor particapción en la producción dependiente e independiente que la usualmente propuesta.

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Copyright © The Author(s), 2007. Published by Cambridge University Press on behalf of Society for American Archaeology


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