The Political Organization of the Belize Valley: New Evidence from Baking Pot, Xunantunich, and Cahal Pech
Audet, Carolyn Marie
Anthropologists have long sought to understand the political organization of complex societies. Investigations into the inter-site hierarchy of the Late and Terminal Classic in the Belize Valley have revealed evidence of political success fueled by economic prosperity. This dissertation addresses the degree to which hierarchy was centralized across the landscape and how centers in the core region of Petén affected the political and economic prosperity of the peripheral centers to the east. Data from three sites within the Belize Valley permit the analysis of relationships among centers of differing size, economic position, and populations. Evidence from architecture, tombs, caches, and glyphic inscriptions point to uneasy hierarchical relationships among centers as elites strove to increase their prestige and power. Models of political interaction as applied in the Maya region are used to facilitate the understanding of the new data. Evidence suggests Baking Pot, Cahal Pech, and Xunantunich had tense political relationships with higher-level centers in the Petén, power struggles often leaving peripheral regions under the political and economic control of militaristic polities. Within the Belize Valley, there are three types of centers; medium size sites with monumental architecture, small villages with minimal public architecture, and small hamlets with no elite activity. Throughout the Late and Terminal Classic periods these small villages and hamlets had little political power, as they fell under the authority of medium sized centers, which in turn answered to larger polities. Naranjo periodically exercised political control over the Belize Valley as evidenced through epigraphic and archaeological data. Calakmul dominated Naranjo, indicating at least a four tier hierarchy within the Maya Lowlands during periods of greatest political centralization.