The Maya has long been established as the best, most readable Introduction to the New World's greatest ancient civilization. In these pages Professor Coe distils a lifetime's scholarship for the general reader and student.
The eighth edition incorporates the latest archaeological and epigraphic research, which continues to proceed at a fast pace. Among the finest new discoveries are the spectacular polychrome murals of Calakmul, which provide archaeological evidence for the importance of marketplaces in the Classic Maya cities as well as giving a unique glimpse into Maya daily life. Other new finds, including those found in cave systems such as the Sistema de Naranjal, relate to the initial peopling of the Maya area by Early Hunters and Archaic peoples.
It is clear that the birth of Maya civilization lies not in the Classic but during the Preclassic period, above all in the Mirador Basin of northern Guatemala, where the builders of gigantic ancient cities erected the world's largest pyramid as early as 200 BC. But in addition, the persistent influence of the precocious Olmec civilization of southeast Mexico on the development of complex society in the Maya area has become more apparent, while the unexpected size and elaboration of Maya temple centres during the Middle Preclassic can now be seen to foreshadow the massive cities of the Mirador Basin. All of these discoveries continue to suggest that we must rethink what we mean by the term Classic'.
The eighth edition concludes with new historical evidence for the crucial role played by collaborationist native leaders, both Maya and non-Maya, in the Spanish conquest of the region.
Michael D. Coe is Professor Emeritus of Anthropology at Yale University. His many other books include Mexico (with Rex Koontz; a companion to The Maya), The True History of Chocolate (with Sophie D. Coe), Breaking the Maya Code, Reading the Maya Glyphs (with Mark Van Stone) and Angkor and the Khmer Civilization, all published by Thames & Hudson.
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