972: Cities of the Maya in Seven Epochs by Glassman and Anaya

by Gerard

972.6: Glassman, Steve & Armando Anaya. Cities of the Maya in Seven Epochs, 1250 B.C. to A.D. 1903. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Co., 2011. 222 pp. ISBN 978-0-7864-4848-7.

Dewey Construction:

  • 900: History and Geography
  • 970: General history of North America
  • 972: History of Middle America and Mexico
  • 972.6: History of the Mayan civilization

Starting in the Pre-Classic Period (c. 2000 BCE), the Maya thrived as a Mesoamerican civilization. They built grand cities and temples, invented a rich logographic writing system, and had a deep understanding of celestial bodies and their movements. In Cities of the Maya in Seven Epochs, authors Steve Glassman and Armando Anaya try to impart a more holistic picture of the culture by looking at the construction of their cities throughout time.

The cities in this book range from the Proto-Maya Olmec sites in San Lorenzo to Chan Santa Cruz, the last remaining pocket of Maya civilization in the early 20th century. Most people think that Maya were completely eliminated by the conquistadors in the 16th and 17th centuries, but they continued to flourish in isolated areas (something I didn’t know before this).

This isn’t that type of book I would normally pick for this project, but it was a freebie from an early reviewer program. While the book contains a lot of useful information, I would hesitate before recommending it to anyone. It reads more like a textbook than anything else, and doesn’t have the rhetorical pizazz of some modern popular historians. Both the detailed histories and intricate mythologies of the various sites are pretty dense. This alone makes it a little tricky to wade through.

In addition, the illustrations in this book are a mixed bag. There are great pictures of actual artifacts and ruins (although only in black and white), but the maps are slightly crude. Granted, you wouldn’t use this book to actually traverse the Yucatan Peninsula, it still creates a jarring juxtaposition. On the plus side, the bibliography is fairly extensive and contains many other related works  that might be worth reading.