12. Embedded Heterarchies of the Maya: Political Structure and Interactions Inspired by Peer Polity Interaction
Thomas G. Garrison [+]
The concept of peer polity interaction resonated with Mesoamerican scholars because of the apparent applicability of the idea to the Maya and other New World civilizations. New revelations regarding the Maya since the 1980s, provided by the near total decipherment of their writing system and a wealth of paleoenvironmental data, suggest that a new model, inspired by peer polity interaction, is appropriate. This chapter proposes an embedded heterarchy model that takes into account cultural and environmental data from the Maya lowlands. The model is based on a proposed analytical hierarchy derived from the spatial theoretical work of David L. Clarke in the 1970s, while the explanatory power of the model is provided by the application of concepts from landscape ecology theory. For the Maya, areas, territories, adaptive regions, and alliances constitute an analytical hierarchy that can be explained using the landscape ecology concepts of structure, function, and change. It is suggested that similar analytical hierarchies, perhaps driven by different bodies of theory, may be appropriate explanatory models in other traditional peer polity civilizations as well. Embedded heterarchies refer to the interactions between units of equal status within the overall analytical hierarchy. To explore the embedded heterarchy model, an example is given at the level of Maya alliances. The alliance concept is explored in depth and the Tikal Alliance of the southern Maya lowlands is used as a case study. This contribution hopes to meet an original goal of the peer polity interaction model of inspiring new, detailed research by providing fresh questions for debate.