Changing Perspectives on Tikal and the Development of Ancient Maya Civilization

Advanced Seminar

September 26–30, 1999

Thirty years ago, a number of key breakthroughs in scholarly understanding of the ancient Maya were provided by the Tikal Project, field research conducted at the Maya site by the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Anthropology in cooperation with the government of Guatemala. This advanced seminar examined the potential contributions that the Tikal database can make to current scholarly perspectives on Maya civilization.

The Advanced Seminar participants included eight scholars who worked at Tikal during the 1950s and 1960s. Of particular value was the sharing of new information about Tikal that has emerged since the close of the fieldwork there. Thirty years represents a relatively short a period of time, but, said seminar chair Jeremy Sabloff, “for Maya studies, it is like an eternity.”

Several questions emerged repeatedly throughout the wide-ranging discussions conducted over the seminar week. These included the timing of the foundation of the Tikal dynasty and the initial indications of socio-political complexity, the 6th-7th century hiatus in monument erection, the reassertion of central authority around A.D. 700, and the strong evidence for collapse and depopulation during the 9th century.

New insights from the ongoing analyses of the Tikal excavations were also brought into the discussion, such as the possibility that there was a thriving marketplace in the center of Tikal, data indicating that foreigners resided in the city, and how differences in tomb form and contents can shed light on the changing fortunes of Tikal rulers.

This advanced seminar was funded by a donation from John Borne. A volume in the Advanced Seminar series from SAR Press is planned.

Jeremy A. Sabloff, Chair University of Pennsylvania Museum
Marshall Joseph Becker Department of Anthropology and Sociology, West Chester University Plaza Plans at Tikal: New Directions and Research Strategies at Lowland Maya Sites and for Inferring Social Organization and Processes of Culture Change
T. Patrick Culbert Department of Anthropology, University of Arizona The Ceramics of Tikal
Robert E. Fry Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Purdue University The Peripheries of Tikal
Peter D. Harrison Maxwell Museum of Anthropology, University of New Mexico The Ceremonial Precincts on the West and South Sides of the Great Plaza at Tikal, and Their Role in the Development of the City
William A. Haviland Department of Anthropology, University of Vermont Settlement, Security and Affairs of State at Tikal
Christopher Jones University of Pennsylvania Museum Floors, Building Blocks and Hieroglyphs: Dating the Place of Ball Game Sacrifice in the East Plaza Tikal
Juan Pedro Laporte Universidad de San Carlos de Guatemala Tres Decadas Despues: Algunos Resultados de la Investigacion Reciente en Tikal
H. Stanley Loten School of Architecture, Carleton University Tikal Architecture: Notes for a Database
Simon Martin London, England Thematic Issues in the Epigraphy of Tikal
Hattula Moholy-Nagy Ann Arbor, Michigan Beyond the Catalogue: Contexts and Chronology of Tikal Artifacts
Robert J. Sharer University of Pennsylvania Museum Tikal and the Copan Dynastic Founding

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