The politics of ritual: The emergence of classic Maya rulers

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Emerging leaders may replicate and expand traditional rituals to integrate increasingly larger numbers of people, advance political agendas, and situate political change within known cultural constructs. Ritual events enable them not only to promote surplus production but, more significant, to appropriate it, and surplus funds an expanding political economy as well as ceremonies and other public events. Consequently, the relationship between resources, settlement, and surplus is critical. For the ancient Maya, the variable distribution of resources and people presented a challenge to those with aspirations to political power. Emerging rulers used domestic dedication, termination, and ancestor veneration rites for political integration. Chronological, stratigraphic, and contextual information on ritual deposits from diverse Maya sites and structures with long occupation histories before, during, and after the advent of Maya rulership indicates that their ritual histories are structurally and functionally similar.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)523-558
Number of pages36
JournalCurrent Anthropology
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2003
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Archaeology
  • Anthropology
  • Archaeology


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