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Ancient Mesoamerican Warfare

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Ancient Mesoamerican Warfare. Edited by M. Kathryn Brown and Travis W. Stanton. (AltaMira Press A Division of Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Lanham, Maryland: 2003. Pg. xii, 370. Figures & Tables.) ISBN: 0-7591-0283-X.

Reviewed by Herbert White - July 16, 2007

As the title suggests, Ancient Mesoamerican Warfare is a book about Ancient Mesoamerican warfare. Edited by M. Kathryn Brown and Travis W. Stanton, this informative book consists of a series of essays by leading Mesoamerican scholars that chronicle the research being done in this field, the archaeological evidence that is currently available, and the authors' interpretation of this data. A sampling of the essays found in this collection include: The text begins with an introductory essay by the book's editors, which describes current methods of study being conducted in this field, the meaning of the term warfare, and information on how this text is organized. The remaining fourteen essays in this collection are organized into five thematic sections:
  1. Warfare, Spatial Boundaries, and the Material Record
  2. Warfare and Ritual
  3. Epigraphic and Iconographic Approaches to Warfare
  4. Ethnohistoric and Ethnographic Approaches to Warfare
  5. Comparative Study and Summary View
The essays in this collection serve to provide the reader with a comprehensive overview of our understanding of warfare in Ancient Mesoamerica, with essays dealing with socities from the pre-classic through the post-contact periods. They also present an overview of the numerous archaeological sites that have provide useful information about this topic, and the materials being garnered. I found the essays in this collection to be riveting and detailed. The level of information found in this book may put it out of the realm of readability for most general readers. However, students and scholars with a diverse range of interests including archaeology, anthropology, the history of warfare, as well as Mesoamerican studies, will find this book essential reading as it is a vital resource for anyone desirous of acquiring an understanding of the role that warfare played in the development and history of ancient Mesoamerican societies. It is also an excellent reference guide to warfare in ancient Mesoamerica and is well suited for use as a supplemental text in any number of university level courses.


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