Patricia A. McAnany (University of North Carolina)

Tribute Economies of Royal Courts

Hidden Transcripts:

Forces & Factors of Wealth Production in Classic Maya Royal Courts

Patricia A. McAnany

Kenan Eminent Professor

University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill


The paucity of economic information in Classic Maya hieroglyphic texts stands in contrast to other early writing systems such as Sumerian cuneiform. Interpretations of the significance of this omission vary widely from courtly disregard for earthly matters to pointed analysis of the statecraft and diplomatic contexts of most texts, which may not have been appropriate venues for counting deer, bales of cotton, or bags of cacao. For us, the day-to-day workings of the Classic-period palace economy resemble a hidden transcript—oblique references exist but considerable “excavation” and synthesis are required to piece together a model of the whole. We examine the many evidentiary strands—archaeological, epigraphic, iconographic, and historical—that enable understanding of the factors and forces of wealth production at ruling courts. The efforts of rulers to expand their wealth through negotiation and failed negotiation (i.e., martial activity) suggest volatile and regionally variable styles of statecraft that tended to emphasize personal interaction, competition, artisanship, and deeply entrenched social difference.


  • Datum/Zeit: 09.05.2014, 16:00-17:30 Uhr
  • Veranstaltungsort: Universität Bonn, Akademisches Kunstmuseum, Hörsaal

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