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Ancient Maya: The Rise and Fall of a Rainforest Civilization (Case Studies in Early Societies) Paperback – January 10, 2005

12 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0521533904 ISBN-10: 0521533902

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Editorial Reviews

Review

'In Ancient Maya, Arthur Demarest, an authority on the Olmec and Maya civilisations, applies an holistic, theoretically-integrated perspective to this study of archaeology, paleoecology, and epigraphy, as well as to his evaluations of fellow scholars. The resulting interpretation covers both practical and spiritual aspects of Classic Maya life from the first to the eighth centuries, including their adaptations to their rainforest environment (agriculture, arboriculture, hydraulic works, and so on), economics and trade, religion and ideology, and politics.' British Bulletin of Publications

Book Description

By applying a holistic view to the most recent evidence from archaeology, Arthur Demarest brings the lost civilization of Maya to life. His theoretical interpretation emphasises both the brilliant rain forest adaptations of the ancient Maya and the Native American spirituality that permeated all aspects of their daily life. Drawing on data from the largest ongoing archaeology projects in Central America, this new study will appeal to anyone interested in the ecological bases of civilization, the function of the state and the causes of the collapse of civilisations.
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Product Details

  • Series: Case Studies in Early Societies (Book 3)
  • Paperback: 389 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press (January 10, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0521533902
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521533904
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #180,540 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

44 of 45 people found the following review helpful By Bob Newman VINE VOICE on July 17, 2008
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Reading a carefully researched, painstakingly compiled academic book is always a pleasure for me. As a former academic myself, I know what it takes---the hours, the millions of details, the checking and cross-checking of facts, the gathering of bibliography and weighing the arguments of all the authors, the mental absorption of months and years. You can never get free until it's done. So, when I find a fine book like ANCIENT MAYA, I'm always glad, but I hold a respectful admiration as well. OK, so Demarest's work may not read like some best seller or pop history. If you don't like references scattered thickly on every page, you won't like his book. You've got to get the sequence of Maya culture's stages [archaic, early preclassic, middle preclassic, late preclassic, classic, postclassic, colonial, modern] firmly in mind in order to follow a lot of the text, and if you don't want to be consulting the maps (good ones) every five minutes, it would be good to have some idea of the geography of the region too. It's not bedtime reading, but if you are interested in a wonderful overview of Maya civilization, you've come to the right place.

The first five chapters don't really discuss the Maya, but "how we know what we know" and "theories about the practice of archaeology" if I may put it like that. The reader gets a crash course in the history of Maya archaeology, various weird theories that have been propagated over the years, modern archaeological techniques, and the beginnings of Maya civilization as dimly perceived through archaeology. The description of Classic Maya society begins with chapter six, on agriculture and ecology. Many of the "old chestnut" theories about the Maya are put to rest here.
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64 of 69 people found the following review helpful By Brian D. Rudert on March 5, 2005
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This is a must read for anyone interested in the ancient Maya and why their advanced civilization that had achieved so much under such harsh conditions suddenly collapsed and disappeared for parts unknown. Demarest argues that the collapse was political rather than the most widely accepted paradigm that it was ecological. He concludes that the collapse was due to a proliferation of royal elites competing for power, similar to the present situation in Saudi Arabia. Warfare between these competing elites caused a collapse during a 100 year period that resulted in a depopulation of major cities and a drastic reduction of palace and temple construction. The book is worth reading if only for Demarest's description of the Wizard of Oz type power structure where Mayan royal elites held power through fantastic ritualistic displays that captivated the masses. He describes the Mayan royal elites as a combination of rock stars, evangelical preachers, and circus performers that dressed in elaborate costumes with feathered head dresses, lit fires with pyrite mirrors, and engaged in public displays of blood letting. Demarest even relates the Mayan architecture to theater with temples high above plazas where the masses could observe rituals. The book is easy to read for layman.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Larry N. Stout on June 20, 2013
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Much of interest here, but it's a dated cursory review that fails to linger long enough on fascinating topics to satisfy the general reader or avocational Mayanist, and is old hat and/or tendentious in various ways to scholars. In common with other titles in this series, it suffers from careless editing: e.g., "phosphate isotopes", soils "leeching", "Wataklajuun", some awkward and sloppy language. Not the best investment in a comprehensive book on the ancient Maya.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Shaun Paul Narzynski on April 4, 2011
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This book is a great overall view of the ancient Maya and their rich history. The author does an amazing job outlining the geographic setting as well as the historical aspect of the Maya. Its an easy interesting read from start to finish. This book is the type of book that makes you want to read more on the subject, and more from the author.
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Most beautiful pictures and wonderful information. Gave as. Gift and was well likes
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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful By knudsen on August 24, 2011
Format: Paperback
Amazing results of an intelligent investigation. Demarest doesn't hesitate to plunge into the cosmology of the Ancient (and most probably modern) Maya leaving the westerner preconceptions on the shore but always aware of possible errors in his conclusions. I love this book - thanks, Arthur!
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