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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Building on what was already known and on some ideas from other scholars, Schele (The Blood of Kings, LJ 10/15/93) and Mathews (archaeology, Univ. of Calgary) used the syntactic approach to break the Maya glyph code, making it possible to learn about Maya customs and beliefs where scholars previously had to guess about the meaning of what they found. Here the authors deal with the glyphs and the architecture of seven sites to explain their uses. The names of some are well known, even though their true purpose and function were not understood in the past. Some questions remain unanswered, but there are also new insights into the beliefs of the Maya. This well-illustrated tour of Maya ruins also has a key to pronunciation and a glossary of gods and supernaturals that add interest for the casual reader. Recommended.?Marilyn K. Dailey, Natrona Cty. P.L., Casper, Wy.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

Mayan civilization, with its hieroglyphic writing and dazzling city ruins, is among the most spectacular in the world. Mayanists Schele and Mathews explain the recently deciphered script and give a vivid guided tour through the cities. Focusing on seven of the most famous buildings in Mayan archaeology, these experts show how the Maya used glyphs to literally inscribe their architecture with accounts of their history and sacred myths. The buildings described include the palace at Tikal, a shrine to the celebrated "Great-Jaguar-Claw," who, like George Washington to Americans, symbolized his city for centuries; and King Pakal's tomb, whose construction and inscriptions this patron of the arts, obsessed with preserving his memory for posterity and his soul for the afterlife, spent his last years overseeing. Stories of the text-covered monuments of Mayan kings will intrigue serious readers who seek depth of coverage on this civilization but will also appeal to those who simply want to dip into archaeology's mysteries. Philip Herbst

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Scribner (March 18, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 068480106X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0684801063
  • Product Dimensions: 9.6 x 7.7 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #101,036 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

59 of 60 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 19, 2000
Format: Hardcover
As a professional archaeologist I found this one of the most insightful books on the Maya I've ever read--and what a pleasure it is. You really catch the excitement of the hunt for the soul of the Maya, from two terrific key scholars. No one has ever tried this approach before, delving the "Maya mysteries" by deeply (and clearly) illustrating the finds and exploring the meanings associated with one outstanding building from each of several well known Maya sites. Each building selected also represents a distinctive TYPE of Maya structure as well: funerary or ritual pyramids, the Chichen ball court, broad plazas ("oceans!"), and great palaces, among others. The reader may not realize how new and innovative their proposed discoveries are, so smoothly and convincingly presented are they. They pull together many recent research advances, and push beyond. They reconstruct history and ritual, right down to the dance steps. Of course this type of analysis only works where one has extraordinary preservation, and texts still directly associated with their original buildings (rather than lost to some foreign collector). The thousands of typical ruined buildings could supply little of the rare information they use here; hopefully their insightful analyses will apply to the aggregate types as well. This is a really fascinating book, one that reads like a novel or good mystery. Even better, the text is organized in layers so you can pick the level of detail you want to follow, from a tourist summary to intricate details of textual exegesis and webs of inferences in the endnotes. This would make a wonderful second book on the Maya (after a general introduction, as by Mike Coe, Norman Hammond, or John Henderson, q.v.).
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24 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Craig Matteson HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on June 28, 2004
Format: Perfect Paperback
What a magnificent book for any general reader, like me, who loves to read about the cultures of Mesoamerica. The authors take us on a tour of seven of the best known and most visited sites: Tikal, Palenque, Copan, Seibal, Chich'en Itza, Uxmal, and Iximche'. The book opens with a most helpful introduction to the archaeology of Mayan culture and the cultural elements that are common to all the city-states / regions that we call Mayan.
Look at page 21 at the photo from 1891 that shows us what the Temple of the Inscriptions looked like before excavation and restoration. Obviously, all the trees that are cleared in the picture would have hidden them even more, but the photo could not have been taken with them there. As you read through the lessons on Mayan architecture, housing, writing, religion, and warfare, the Maya become life and blood people who existed at a time and place that becomes nearer to us through this great book.
If you are planning to visit one or more of these sites, then this book is a must read as well as a field guide to take with you on the trip. The authors take key features and each site and explain them in detail. What a great experience it would be to stand in front of these monuments, murals, and temples with this most helpful text helping you understand what you are seeing.
The book is richly illustrated with many drawings of important inscriptions, buildings, monuments, and architectural details. There are also many black and white photographs, and a section of wonderful color plates to help us understand the beauty of the natural setting that provides the context for these cultures.
After the visits to the cities there are many helpful features that comprise another hundred pages of the book.
Read more ›
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24 of 26 people found the following review helpful By "danielinyaracuy" on November 10, 2001
Format: Perfect Paperback
"The Code of Kings" suffers from too much seriousness. The structure of the book relies on interpreting some main architectural achievements of the Mayan kings who commissioned them. That is, for most chapters a brief historical narrative is followed by a detailed description of the monumental group of interest and ends with an interpretation as to its relevance. The interpretations are good, and we can appreciate the great scholarly gifts of Linda Schele (in particular when the authors dispose of the Toltec Maya myths of Chichen Itza). We can even be moved at times such as when the authors talk of the Great Plaza of Waxaklahun-Ubah-K'Awil (this reviewer was happy to have read it a few days before going to Copan). However, this dense package might scare away a more casual reader of the Maya history. It also makes this book pretty useless to take along in your trip to Guatemala and Yucatan, unless you will have plenty of time to sit down under some trees and read while you visit. But if you have plenty of time to prepare for your trip, you definitely need to read it. And of course, it is a must in any serious book collection on the Maya.
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22 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Atheen on April 8, 2000
Format: Hardcover
This is a fairly in depth discussion of the epigraphic evidence from various Mayan cities, including Tikal, Palenque, Copan, Seibal, Chichen Itza, Uxmal, and Iximche. The first chapter gives a brief overview of the Mayan region, writing, architecture, and mythology that helps orient the reader to the cultural and physical setting of the ancient centers. Thereafter each chapter is deducated to a specific site, its architecture, the written material illuminating its history, and its public personalities. Ms Schele's book brings to life the ancient people, making them more real to the reader. It, like "Lords of Tikal" by Peter Harrison (for which see my review list by clicking on my name or go to the book itself), helps the reader appreaciate the accomplishments of this society and of the researchers who have reclaimed it.
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