To read this content please select one of the options below:

Shaping social difference: Political and ritual economy of Classic Maya royal courts

Dimensions of Ritual Economy

ISBN: 978-0-7623-1485-0, eISBN: 978-1-84950-546-8

Publication date: 6 May 2008


The most powerful and effective forces of hierarchizing are those that naturalize difference so that it is beyond dispute and something to be tacitly accepted. In the Classic Maya world, this “social speciation” was materialized and naturalized through a complex web of ritual practice, deity emulation, enhancement of body aesthetics, and the fabrication and possession of hypertrophic goods. The architecture of Classic Maya royal courts broke with an older Maya residential pattern of accretional construction filled with ancestral burials in order to materialize more effectively social difference, to provide space for exclusive ritual performance, and to showcase the highly valued and gendered labor of textile production. Such instruments of authority are “weapons of exclusion” that can be wielded to fend off assaults on hierarchy. From this perspective, informed by the ritual economy approach, the profound transformations of the 9th century in the Maya lowlands are considered an assault that was not defendable.


McAnany, P.A. (2008), "Shaping social difference: Political and ritual economy of Classic Maya royal courts", Christian Wells, E. and McAnany, P.A. (Ed.) Dimensions of Ritual Economy (Research in Economic Anthropology, Vol. 27), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 219-247.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited