Governance, Monumentality, and Urbanism in the Northern Maya Lowlands During the Preclassic and Classic Periods

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This article synthesizes monumentality, governance, urbanism, and regional statecraft in the Northern Maya Lowlands during the Preclassic and Classic periods. As in some parts of the Southern Lowlands, ceremonial spaces likely predated sedentism and monumental construction predated large-scale inequality. Nevertheless, the process of construction and the resulting monuments facilitated complex societies. In the Late Preclassic, some political centers featured factional competition, and there is less evidence for individual rulers than in the Southern Lowlands. The Classic period exhibits remarkable variation in governance. Both dynastic rulership and collective governance in the form of shared decision making are common in the Northern Lowlands throughout the Classic period, with a shift toward the former in later centuries. Northern Lowland cities, while more densely settled than most Southern Lowland centers, do not follow settlement scaling expectations. Density contributed to neighborhood formation and collective action, yet minimal spatial clustering of households makes neighborhoods more difficult to identify. Intra-household inequality appears not to correlate with forms of governance. Marketplaces facilitated the both leadership strategies and household livelihoods. Scholars debate the nature or governance at Chichen Itza, yet several recent projects in its hinterlands clarify the nature of regional statecraft at Chichen, whose leaders exercised a variety of strategies, enabling the enrichment of some of its neighbors.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Archaeological Research
StateAccepted/In press - 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023, The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature.


  • Governance
  • Maya
  • Monumentality
  • Urbanism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Archaeology
  • Archaeology
  • Arts and Humanities (all)


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