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65 of 71 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Mayan Royal Rock Stars, March 5, 2005
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This review is from: Ancient Maya: The Rise and Fall of a Rainforest Civilization (Case Studies in Early Societies) (Paperback)
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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