Classic lowland Maya political organization: A review

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


This paper reviews recent archaeological research concerning Classic Maya lowland political systems (ca. A.D. 250-1000). It focuses specifically on (1) subsistence practices revealed through the analysis of prehistoric climate, available resources, agricultural technologies, and diet; (2) population distribution, density, and size revealed through the analysis of settlement practices and architectural function; (3) social differentiation and interaction revealed through the analysis of burial practices, diet and health, architecture, and production, consumption, and exchange patterns; and (4) ancient Maya political economy (how it was funded) revealed through the analysis of community organization, ritual activities, the Classic Maya collapse, and warfare. It finally ends with a brief discussion of the future of Maya archaeology. A key factor that recurs throughout this review is the noticeable amount of variability that existed-varied resources, subsistence strategies, settlement practices, and social and political systems. An understanding of this variability is the key to appreciate fully the Classic Maya.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)211-263
Number of pages53
JournalJournal of World Prehistory
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1999
Externally publishedYes


  • Classic period
  • Maya archaeology
  • Maya lowlands
  • Political organization

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Archaeology
  • Archaeology


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