Interpreting the integrative strategies of the Classic period Copán polity on its southeastern frontier in western Honduras
This dissertation models integrative strategies pertaining the Classic Period (AD 200-900), Copan polity of western Honduras on the frontier of the Maya world. Past scholarship on integrative strategies is largely based on comparative analyses of empires, the largest and most diverse political entities of the ancient world. However, as is argued on the basis of new fieldwork, integrative strategies can be successfully employed at smaller scale polities, such as Maya polities, since these strategies are not sensitive to either population size or heterogeneity. The unique location of the Copán polity on the southeastern frontier of the Maya world in a multi-ethnic area, makes it an attractive area to study Classic Maya integrative strategies. The surrounding populations were non-Maya at the time of Copán’s dynastic foundation making subsequent structural transformations to political systems and styles in those regions highly visible in the archaeological record. The Cucuyagua and Sensenti valleys on the southeastern frontier of the Copán polity were systematically surveyed and excavated as part of this research. A model was created to evaluate whether the Copán polity cultivated territorial relations, hegemonic or transactional relation with the respective valleys. Using this model, I discovered greater convergences in settlement patterns, artistic styles, and economic interaction between Late Classic settlement in the Cucuyagua and Copán valleys than with the more distant Sensenti valley. The construction of a Copán-style secondary center in the Early Classic with nucleated settlement, Copán-style sculpture, and Copán-style palace suggests that this valley was territorially integrated within the Copán polity. In contrast, elites from the Sensenti valley emulated Copán-style residential architecture and consumed Madrugada model-carved pottery that was produced in Copán for inter-elite gift-giving. However, its Late Classic settlement lacked a nucleated center or public imagery referencing the rulers of Copán. Due to that combination of factors, I conclude that this area was hegemonically integrated within the Copán polity. Furthermore, smaller polities, like the Copán polity used the same varied integrative strategies carried out by larger, better known empires.