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Showing 1-10 of 39 reviews(Verified Purchases). See all 51 reviews
on June 29, 1999
For several years I have used this edition and its three predecessors in a small, introductory college seminar on Maya archaeology. Students and I both liked it. It is sensitive to developments in all areas of Maya research and to the growing knowledge about interactions between the Maya and other ancient peoples of the region. (In this it complements Coe's companion book, MEXICO.) The sixth edition nicely takes account of recent exciting developments in deciphering Maya script, which is a useful addition, since these are headline grabbers that correspond well with what is likely to bubble over into the news media. As a balanced, archaeologically responsible, continuously updated account, with lots of maps and pictures to amplify the text, this is a really useful book.
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on August 16, 2014
I have been deeply interested in the Mayan civilization for decades, and have long known of Dr. Michael Coe. I'm now in my late fifties, and over the decades have seen just about every television documentary about this most fascinating of all Mesoamerican societies (two of these, 'Breaking the Maya Code', and 'Cracking the Maya Code' were based on Coe's book of the same name as the former). This is my first foray into Dr. Coe's written works; he is widely acknowledged as one of the foremost experts in the world on the Maya.

If one wants to learn about the Maya from scratch, this book is the place to start-just be aware that Dr. Coe has more than a thousand years to cover here, and the Maya were a very complex and enigmatic society. He also weaves the story of how the Mayan civilization was discovered by Westerners and how the writing and numerical systems used by the Classic Maya were deciphered (which is still an ongoing process) into the narrative of this book.

Other reviewers have complained about Coe's extensive descriptions of Mayan artifacts and architecture as 'dry' and slowing down the narrative. While it is true this can get a bit tedious, a great deal of what we know about the Maya comes from these very items--the Classic Maya put their glyphs everywhere, including on their pottery, murals, stelae (upright rectangular stones), and buildings.

This most recent update of what has become a series of books is the most comprehensive yet, encompassing new discoveries such as the gigantic Pre-Classic Mayan complex in the El Mirador basin in Guatemala, as well as the discovery of a new set of Pre-Classic murals at nearby San Bartolo. The latter has been compared in significance to the famed Classic-period murals at Bonampak; the Danta pyramid at El Mirador is the largest yet discovered at any Maya site, and is comparable in total volume to the Great Pyramid at Giza in Egypt. These discoveries show the Maya were building on a vast scale centuries before the Classic Period began around AD 300.

Dr. Coe has somehow managed to pull off the considerable feat of covering the whole of the known Maya timeline, from their Olmec-influenced beginnings to the present day. Contrary to what some believe, the Maya didn't disappear after the 'Great Collapse' that ended the Classic Period Golden Age at the end of the 9th century; they moved and adapted. The Maya people did the same after the Spanish Conquest, and continue to do so today.

The story of the Maya is something one easily gets addicted to; catch the bug, and you'll want to keep digging.
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on February 8, 2013
I purchased this book in anticipation of a visit to various Mayan sites after I retire (which has not yet occurred). This is the first such book I have bought or read on Mayan culture, and thus I am not able to compare it to other works on the subject. However, I find this book very helpful and informative. The text is in professorial style and a little difficult to assimilate, but the book is relatively short, being less than 300 pages with many photos and diagrams interspersed throughout,. As a result, it is not, as I had feared, a mammoth project to read through this work. The explanation of the decipherment of the glyph system of writing is definitely beyond my ken, but I gained a greater understanding and appreciation of the system and the work of those who contributed to "cracking the code". The work was helpful with regard to determning which sites might be considered the more signigicant and how they related to other sites in Mayan history and culture. In my opiinion this work would be useful to the scholar as well as the most casual tourist, and I would highly recommend it to either.
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on August 1, 2014
As a curious amateur (I have no training in anything remotely related to anthropology or archaeology) I have been fascinated with the native peoples of the North, Central, and South American continents. This book is well written, the structure easy to follow, and the diagrams and photos well done.

After reading this book, I feel as if I know about the Mayan people, how they lived, and what they left behind. I appreciated that everything was well grounded in serious research (there are a lot of hokey Mayan books) and that the book talked about the people and processes behind that research. I recommend anything by Michael Coe.
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on June 9, 2013
Coe has done an outstanding with presenting the obscure world of the Maya to the armchair historian and reader. Studying Maya history is complicated due the intricate network of city-states, multiple falls and re-arisings and indigenous adaptation to the scarcity of resources that the Yucatan and Southern Occidental Mountains provided them.

With the recent advent of Maya Hieroglyphics becoming understandable to the modern eye, there is much to be gained from this book (and its other editions) towards the limited understanding we have today of the people called the Maya.
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on February 12, 2014
Good overview of ancient Maya. My major criticism concerns the amount of pages devoted to describing buildings and artifacts at the various Maya sites; I would have preferred more information on the overall cultural significance rather than a physical description. Overall, this book was informative.
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on January 13, 1998
I would recommend this book for people who are planning to visit Mayan sites such as Chichen Itza or Tikal, and would like to get a scholarly, authoritative overview of current scientific knowledge. It is not, however, a page turner. The writing style is dry, and a most of the book consists of lengthy lists and descriptions of buildings and artifacts discovered at every major Mayan site, with little analysis or discussion of what the artifacts actually signify. Those who are short of time or patience would do well to skip ahead to the last three chapters, where the author *at last* provides a discussion of Mayan culture and beliefs. This book is still a good use of time for people who want to get a scientific view of Mayan civilization, instead of the myths that the local tour guides will perpetrate. The hand-drawn maps and illustrations are especially beautifully rendered.
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on July 31, 2015
Very well detailed description of the Mayans throughout their long history. The author breaks up the book by the different time periods which is very helpful in understanding the evolution of this culture.
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on June 14, 2013
Very Good, very detailed. Would have preferred more about daily life, e.g. their religion over time, key incidents of their history, what they believed in, how that changed if at all over time - or with different regions. But maybe thats not that apparent and agreed to by the experts.
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on March 2, 2013
Coe provides a comprehensive of the Maya civilization and culture from its earliest roots through the conquest and to the present. He strikes a balance in presenting multiple perspectives on controversial issues. The eighth edition seems fresh with the latest insights.
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