Understanding ancient Maya economic variability
Given that the economy involves all actors in a society, anthropological archaeology studies of the economy tend to be reductionist in their modelling, particularly of the ancient Maya, as by failing to examine certain segments of the ancient economy the full range of questions and complexities concerning economic interactions cannot be addressed. While much of the current framework for studying the past economy is due to the fragmentary nature of the archaeological record, traditional approaches tend to emphasize top-down studies, focusing on elites and their use of the economy for obtaining and maintaining power, and bottom-up studies which focus on the economic independence of small-scale farmers and householders. Studies of the economy should take a middle ground as it should be seen as a system of multiple economies in which different goods circulated. This dissertation seeks to model the multiple ways economies articulated in the past focusing on utilitarian goods which circulated through different economies. The articulation of economies becomes apparent through studies of the extraction and production of raw materials as access to and exchange of such goods occurs at the intersection of various economies. This dissertation asks, what was the relative role of various actors in the management of raw materials for utilitarian resource production? Examining the access to materials for utilitarian goods highlights the variability in economic practices and the involvement of actors of varying socio-economic statuses in lowland Maya economies. This dissertation focuses on lithic production at a chert quarry and production area in the upper Belize River valley of western Belize during the Late to Terminal Classic Periods (A.D. 670-890). This dissertation finds that local residents managed resources to produce utilitarian tools, indicating economies were a source of integration with and insulation from regional political dynamics. These data suggest we should view lowland Maya economies as complex systems where individuals of different socio-economic statuses negotiated wealth and power.