Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor


Second Advisor



AN ABSTRACT OF THE DISSERTATION OF PHILLIP JULIUS WANYERKA, for the Doctor of Philosophy degree in ANTHROPOLOGY, presented on 25, February 2009, at Southern Illinois University Carbondale. TITLE: CLASSIC MAYA POLITICAL ORGANIZATION: EPIGRAPHIC EVIDENCE OF HIERARCHICAL ORGANIZATION IN THE SOUTHERN MAYA MOUNTAINS REGION OF BELIZE MAJOR PROFESSORS: Dr. Charles A. Hofling and Dr. Don S. Rice This project investigates the nature of Classic Maya (A.D. 300-900) political organization from the hieroglyphic inscriptions of sites located in the Southern Maya Mountains Region of Belize, Central America. Using recent models of political integration as suggested by Grube and Martin (1994, 1995, 1998a, 1998b, 1998c), as well as by Rice (2004), I have sought to understand and define the basic political principles that operated during the Classic Period. In my view, Classic Maya political organization was structured by a combination of hegemonic practice informed by Maya calendrical science, namely the 256-year cycle known as the may. Scholars have struggled in their attempts to define and reconstruct Classic Maya political organization. Most of the previous approaches to this issue have been derived from anthropological theory based on various social, geographic, economic, and political factors observed or deduced from the archaeological record or from ethnographic analogies to pre-industrial peoples far-removed from Mesoamerican cultural tradition. Both Martin and Grube, and Rice's political models are based on the ethnohistoric descriptions and analogies to Postclassic and early Colonial Period Maya, the Mixtecs, and the Aztecs as well as the decipherment of several key hieroglyphic expressions that indicate agency, alliance, subordination, and warfare. This approach may explain how Classic Maya polities operated intra-regionally and how they interacted inter-regionally using the Maya's own written inscriptions as the basis for interpretation. The strength of this approach is its ability to illuminate possible avenues of archaeological research by revealing epigraphic relationships that can then be tested. By combining the methods of epigraphy, archaeology, and a direct historical approach to the hieroglyphic inscriptions of this region, I have not only been able to reconstruct the dynastic history of sites in the region, but I have also been able to reconstruct the political affiliations and hierarchies that existed among sites in this poorly understood region of the southern Maya Lowlands. The data presented here are restricted to the four major emblem-glyph-bearing sites in the region that recorded hieroglyphic texts: Lubaantún, Nim Li Punit, Pusilhá, and Uxbenká.




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