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Ancient Maya Commoners

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Ancient Maya Commoners
Edited by Jon C. Lohse and Fred Valdez, Jr. (University of Texas Press, Austin: 2004. Pg. viii, 299. 55 Figures and 7 Tables.) ISBN: 0-292-70571-9.

Reviewed by Rochelle Caviness - January 3, 2005

Ancient Maya Commoners is a collection of papers, by a group of outstanding Maya scholars, which examine the lives of the non-elite Maya. Although the Maya population was predominately non-elite, it is the elite members of the culture that have been the subject of most academic inquiry. In this timely work, Jon C. Lohse and Fred Valdex, Jr. have compiled an accessible, yet academically rigorous, collection of essays that explore the current theories and data applicable to the study of Maya commoners.

The eleven essays in this book makes full use of all available data ranging from archaeological and ethnohistorical to ethnographic and modern examples of ancient Maya practices. In addition to describing their research on Maya commoners, the authors have attempted to explain how this information fits into our overall understanding of the Maya and how by learning about the non-elites we can better understand how the elites controlled the population under them. The essays are illustrated and each concludes with a set of useful bibliographic references that can be used as a comprehensive reading guide to each topic under discussion.

A perusal of the titles of the essays in this groundbreaking collection shows the breadth of this work, with essays spanning from preclassic to postclassic periods and over broad geographical areas. The end result is a detailed, and sweeping overview of ancient Maya commoner life. The essays in this volume include: Although written for a scholarly audience, Ancient Maya Commoners is an eminently readable volume that will fascinate general readers and scholars alike. It is also ideally suited for use in upper level and graduate courses on Maya and Mesoamerica studies, archaeology, and anthropology, as well as social history courses.

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