November 8, 2003 Dr. Charles Golden: "The Frontiers of Authority in Classic
Maya Kingdoms: New Evidence from the Usumacinta River."

    Inscriptions at Piedras Negras and Yaxchilán provide the outline of a
political contest waged from c. AD 450 to 800, which often erupted into
warfare.  As this contest progressed in the 7th century AD, secondary
political centers ruled by non-royal lords known as sajal arose between
these competing paramount sites.  Important political and military allies,
these sajal were granted textual and iconographic representation on stone
monuments - a prerogative that had once belonged only to their overlords.
Numerous monuments believed to originate at secondary sites in the Sierra
del Lacandón National Park of Guatemala have yielded invaluable histories
that relate the relationship between paramount rulers and their subordinate
nobility, and shed light on the organization of Maya kingdoms in general.
But most of these monuments now reside in museums and private collections,
and without an adequate archaeological survey we cannot provide the cultural
context needed to fully develop our understandings of changing political
organization within and between Maya polities in the region.
    This talk discussed the epigraphic record from the kingdoms of Yaxchilán
and Piedras Negras, and situated these texts in light of new research being
carried out by the Sierra del Lacandon Regional Archaeological Project.  In
its first field season in 2003, this project documented two previously
unknown sites, as well as two sites that had been rumored to exist but never
visited by professional archaeologists.   As we begin to integrate the
epigraphic and archaeological data, we are developing a more complete
picture of the Classic period kingdoms, of ancient Maya political life.

    Charles Golden is a graduate of the University of Illinois at
Urbana-Champaign, where he earned his bachelor's degree in Anthropology and
History, and the University of Pennsylvania, where he earned his doctorate
in Anthropology.  He has over a decade of research experience in
Mesoamerican archaeology, and has worked in Belize, Honduras, Guatemala.  He
completed four field seasons of research in the royal palace at Piedras
Negras, Guatemala, and is currently the director of the Sierra del Lacandon
Regional Archaeological Project (SLRAP).  The SLRAP conducts archaeological
survey in the frontier zone between the Classic period kingdoms of Piedras
Negras and Yaxchilan in order to better understand the organization of
ancient Maya polities.

back to home page