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The Maya has long been established as the best, most readable introduction to the New World’s greatest ancient civilization. In these pages Michael D. Coe distills a lifetime’s scholarship for the general reader and student.
The eighth edition incorporates the latest archaeological and epigraphic research. 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 recent finds 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 in 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. 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. These and other discoveries continue to suggest that we must rethink what we mean by the term “Classic.”
This 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.
Because of the wealth of new archaeological data and breakthroughs in the translation of hieroglyphs, Coe's updating of his classic synthesis of Maya civilization provides a valuable service to both informed lay readers and specialists wishing to apprise themselves of the current state of understanding of this most intellectually sophisticated and aesthetically refined pre-Columbian culture. Although the vast majority of the text may be found in the prior edition, the work is transformed by significant interpolations and deletions and is augmented by a new section of color plates, a useful guide for travelers, and a listing of Maya rulers. As it now stands, this refreshed and renewed little masterpiece merits a place in collections serving students of ancient Mesoamerica.
Latin America in Books
“As a general introduction, this seems all that is needed.”
Michael D. Coe is Professor Emeritus of Anthropology at Yale University. His books include The Maya,Mexico, Breaking the Maya Code, Angkor and the Khmer Civilization, Reading the Maya Glyphs, and, with Sophie Coe, The True History of Chocolate.