The rich findings of recent exploration and research are incorporated in this completely revised and greatly expanded edition of the standard work on the New World's most brilliant civilizationthat of the Maya people of northern Central America and southern Mexico.
From its shadowy beginnings centuries before Christ, the history of the Maya is traced through its periods of cultural growth, mysterious decline, renewed prosperity, and eventual downfall following the Spanish Conquest. Ever since the awesome remains of this civilization, which spanned some 2,000 years, were discovered in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the ancient Maya have attracted widespread fascination. Where had this civilization come from? How could the Maya have sustained themselves so successfully in such an inhospitable environment? What catastrophes had overwhelmed their long-abandoned cities? Today, scientific research in a variety of disciplines has made considerable progress in answering such questions.
Still, the allure of the Maya persists. Part of this fascination undoubtedly derives from the romantic image of a "lost civilization" that left scores of ruined cities deep in the jungle. But the more we learn of the Maya, the deeper becomes our respect and admiration. For these were a people of astonishing achievement: in mathematics, astronomy, calendrics, an writing systems; in technology, political organization, an commerce; and in sculpture, painting, and architecture.
Because of the veritable explosion of research on the Maya in recent years, we are for the first time beginning to understand the origins of the civilization and the reasons for both its flowering and its decline. New field discoveries, new technical advances, new successes in the decipherment of Maya writing, and new theoretical perspectives on the Maya past have made necessary this present edition of The Ancient Maya, which is more than one-fourth longer than the previous edition.