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Late Classic Maya AD 600-900 Peak of Greatness
Ceremonial obsidian knife from burial cache at Copan. Intricate chipping to produce portrait knife.
Mayan Lowlands and Highlands • Major Classic sites remain powerful • Smaller sites of significance: Rio Bec, Bonampak, Dos Pilas and Copan, • Reemergence to prominence: Monte Alban (in Oaxaca) and Caracol • Chichen itza expands. Uxmal becomes one of the great cities.
Elsewhere • Valley of Mexico: Decline of Teotihuacan and abandonment. Population splinters into small groups throughout the region. • West and North Mexico: Rise of small petty kingdoms that would later become the mighty Toltec, Aztec, and Tarascan States. • Central Highlands: Tula
Evidence informing us about the period • Inscriptions of king lists, accounts of battles, murals, inscriptions of legends, archaeological remains. • King lists in particular provide a chronology of wars between cities and who the protagonists were.
Late Classic Maya • A period of great achievements but also tremendous conflict between rival cities. • Civilization continues to be based on agriculture, milpa (slash and burn) farming and irrigation farming. • Important shift from city life centered on gods to focus on rulers and elite society.
Power • Expressed through temple construction, display of captives, monuments, increased scale in ritual sacrifice. • Stelae and inscriptions: boasts of power • “Star Wars”: war timed by astrology.
New Architectural Styles • Puuc mosaic embellishment seen at Chichen itza, Uxmal, Coba (and others) • Puuc replaces the carved and inscribed face stones with a mosaic approach to iconography. Individual pieces transform the buildings from facades to complete figures themselves.
Puuc refers both to a region and an architectural style Major sites with Puuc style highlighted in color circles
1936 Sylvanus Morely at Uxmal excavations as pictured in national Geographic Magazine.
Rio Bec Towers. Façade had large figures in Puuc style.
Bonampak • SE Mexico, Chiapas, near Guatemala • Small city but important for its frescos--murals painted in plaster. • Scenes of war, ritual, music, magic
Restoration • Computer enhancement and color replenishment.
Multiple sources of evidence • War gods • Stelae with inscriptions of warrior kings • Painted and carved images of war, captives being tortured or sacrifices • Archaeologically recovered weapons
War served many purposes: to assert authority; for kings to gain status; to obtain captives for slaves and sacrifice; for resource control; to please the war gods...
We are informed by inscriptions that the heliacal rising of the “dawn star” (Venus) was a portent of evil and a pretext for war. • Specific lunar cycles are also associated with war. • Scribes were a specific target of war. • One war between Uaxactun and Tikal is recorded in scripts at both sites. Tikal was led by Great Jaguar Paw and Uaxactun by Fire is Born.
Decorative war mace Warrior, Piedras Negras
Drinking vessel or vase. Warrior jaguar cloak and with mace displays his captive