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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

When Worlds Collide: Understanding the Effects of Maya-Teotihuacán Interaction on Ancient Maya Identity and Community
by Foley, Jennifer Marie, Ph.D., Vanderbilt University, 2017, 494; 10753385
Abstract (Summary)

This study centers on excavations carried out at the site of La Sufricaya, which is part of the Holmul region in the northeast of the Department of El Petén, Guatemala (Figure 1.1). La Sufricaya is a minor site that was constructed and first inhabited during the beginning of the Early Classic period (AD 200-450) and reoccupied in the Late Classic period (AD 700-900) (Table 1.1). This rather modest ancient Maya site has revealed elaborate painted murals, hieroglyphic inscriptions, ceramics and lithic evidence that link the inhabitants of the site to the events surrounding the Teotihuacán entrada2 (Stuart 2000) into the central Petén during the Early Classic period. While providing new information regarding the ruling elite within the Holmul region, the work at La Sufricaya also contributes new data to the debate surrounding the degree and nature of Maya-Teotihuacán interaction during the Early Classic period.

Among its contributions to the field of Maya archaeology, this study attempts to examine the issue of cultural interaction through the lens of identity, both social (rank, status, class) and ethnic, to understand the experience of interaction and the impact on Maya society. Engaging the concepts of identity, self-consciousness (Comaroff and Comaroff 1991) and imagined community (Anderson 1981; Yaeger 2000) moves the debate surrounding Maya-Teotihuacán interaction from the stagnant realm of culture history, focused on isolated pieces of the puzzle, to the active arena of studies that attempt to understand human interaction and the development of society through a holistic approach. This approach combines the analysis of archaeological material remains, historical hieroglyphic inscriptions, and art historical analysis of iconography to elucidate how contact with foreigners may have affected life at La Sufricaya, and by extension Holmul, as well as the impact on Maya identity on a regional level. Through a comparative synthesis of the evidence of Maya-Teotihuacán interaction, this project addresses not only the degree and nature of interaction between these two great civilizations, but the impact such interaction had on the self-consciousness and identity of the Maya. The application of anthropological concepts like identity, self-consciousness and imagined communities provides a basis for cross-cultural comparison of interaction in Mesoamerica, which will advance these studies in a variety of ways.

This work attempts to answer research questions on several scales of analysis. Did La Sufricaya function as a center independent from Holmul? If not, for what purpose was La Sufricaya constructed outside of the Holmul ceremonial center? Does the construction of La Sufricaya represent a rift in the Holmul dynasty/ruling elite? If so, did the nearby site of Tikal and foreigners from Teotihuacán play a role in the politics of the Holmul region? Did the elite residents of La Sufricaya have direct contact with people from Teotihuacán? If so, what form did it take and what impact did it have? (Abstract shortened by ProQuest.)

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Janusek, John Wayne
Commitee: Eberl, Markus, Estrada-Belli, Francisco, Fowler, William R., Headrick, Annabeth
School: Vanderbilt University
Department: Anthropology
School Location: United States -- Tennessee
Source: DAI-A 79/05(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Archaeology, Cultural anthropology
Keywords: Acient Maya, Ethnic identity, Imagined communities, Tratihumccn
Publication Number: 10753385
ISBN: 978-0-355-55568-4
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