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Maya Palaces and Elite Residences

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Maya Palaces and Elite Residences
An Interdisciplinary Approach, Edited by Jessica Joyce Christie. The Linda Schele Series in Maya and Pre-Columbian Studies. (University of Texas Press, Austin: 2003. Pg. x, 340. Illustrations, Tables.) ISBN: 0-292-71244-8.

Reviewed by Rochelle Caviness - July 21, 2003

Maya Palaces and Elite Residences is a compelling new book that is edited by Jessica Joyce Christie. This book contains a series of essays that take an interdisciplinary approach to the study and interpretation of the Mayan structures that were originally duped palacios (palaces) by the Spanish. Through the years there has been much disagreement as to what these palaces were actually used for, and what they were. In this fascinating book, the reader is introduced to current theories, and research currently underway, on the origins and purposes of the Mayan Palaces. These essays not only discuss what types of buildings are normally classed as palaces, but also how they differ, architecturally and functionally, from other elite residences. The essays also cover such diverse topics as what the spatial arrangements of the buildings teach us about the Mayan mind set to the various ceremonial activities that are likely to have taken place in the palaces. A quick look at the titles of the essays contained in this collection will give you a fair idea of the expansive scope of the material covered with in the pages of this book, both geographically and methodologically. Maya Palaces and Elite Residences will be welcomed by both scholars in the field, and students with an interest in Mesoamerican archaeology and history. For those without a firm grounding in this field, the text includes a concise overview of Mayan history and culture. Also discussed in this overview is the current methodologies being used in studying the Maya, and how the study of the Maya and their structures have changed overtime.

Within the scope of this work, detailed site reports / analysis are provided about the palaces and elite structures located at the Mayan sites of Blue Creek, Copan, Tikal, Dos Pilas, Aguateca, Uxmal, Chichen Itza, Dzibilchaltun, and Yaxuna. According to the books introduction, "The main purpose of this volume is to present an interdisciplinary approach and bring together scholars in archaeology, anthropology, art history, and epigraphy, as well as information from a number of different Maya sites, to see what kind of formal and functional patterns in palaces and elite residences can be isolated and in which ways they reflect the structure of Maya society." (Pg 9.) This is precisely what is accomplished with this volume, and as such it serves as an outstanding reference guide to the subject of Maya palaces and elite residences and their place in Mayan society! In addition, Maya Palaces and Elite Residences is a compelling book that poses almost as many questions as it answers. Consequently it is sure to have prominent place in all future discussion on the Mayan Palaces.

Related Reviews:

Palaces and Power in the Americas: From Peru to the Northwest Coast, edited by Jessica Joyce Christie and Patricia Joan Sarro.
Twelve essays that detail the archaeological, historical, and cultural relevance of various palaces found throughout the ancient Americas.

Water and Ritual - The Rise and Fall of Classic Maya Rulers, by Lisa J. Lucero.
An in-depth look at the roles that water and ritual played in Mayan culture and politics.

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