Political Alliances and Trade Connections Observed in the Ceramic Record of the Classic Period: The Perspective from the Maya Site of Nakum, Guatemala

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  • Jarosław Źrałka
  • Helmke, Christophe
  • Bernard Hermes
  • Wiesław Koszkul
  • Carmen Ting
  • Ronald L. Bishop
  • Dorota Bojkowska
Recent research carried out at the Maya site of Nakum, located in northeastern Guatemala, has brought about the discovery of a large collection of ceramic artefacts. This substantial assemblage, apart from monochrome ceramics, includes fragments of polychrome vessels that are decorated with elaborate iconographic scenes and painted hieroglyphic texts. Most of them date to the Late Classic period (ca. a.d. 600–800), which represents the peak of the pre-Columbian Maya civilization. The style of these ceramics, their iconography and accompanying glyphic texts, supplemented in many cases by mineralogical and physicochemical analyses of the ceramic samples, indicate that Nakum was part of a broad and complex network of political and economic interactions between various sites and polities of the southern Maya lowlands in the Classic period. During the first part of the Late Classic period, Nakum seems to maintain close relations with Naranjo, probably serving as its vassal at least from the reign of its renowned king Aj Wosal. After the victory of Tikal over Naranjo in the first part of the eighth century, Nakum shows closer cultural and political connections with Tikal. Nevertheless, towards the end of the Classic era, when we observe the profound collapse of lowland Maya civilization, Nakum elites gain political independence from their former overlords.
Original languageEnglish
JournalAncient Mesoamerica
Issue number3
Pages (from-to)461-475
Number of pages15
Publication statusPublished - 2020

ID: 254483135