The Royal Palace of Cancuen: The Structure of Lowland Maya Architecture and Politics at the end of the Late Classic Period
Barrientos Quezada, Tomas Jose
The investigations in the royal palace of Cancuen provide an invaluable set of data concerning our understanding of ancient Maya architecture and sociopolitical organization, because architecture constitutes one of the most important material remains of past societies. In this study, a structural approach has defined the royal palace of Cancuen as a built environment, multifunctional space and social stage for the nobility, where residential, political, economic, and religious activities took place. Although Cancuen was initially a minor center controlled by other major Maya cities, it became the main center of the Pasion river under the reign of ruler Taj Chan Ahk, during the mid 8th century. This florescence is well represented by its royal palace, one of the largest in the Maya Lowlands. Unlike other Maya palace, this one was built at once as a complex set of spaces that responded to particular political strategies. Together with other contemporary centers, Cancuen experienced changes in its sociopolitical organization and economic regime, being reflected in the proliferation of multi-roomed buildings that served as means to integrate rising secondary elites and other non-royal political actors. This case study demonstrates that the structural interpretation of architecture, particularly elite and public architecture, can reveal a great deal about the political and social structure of ancient societies.