Publication of A Forest of Kings (1990)

Friday, December 28, 2012

In 1990 Mayanists Linda Schele and David Freidel published AForest of Kings: The Untold Story of the Ancient Maya. Combining archaeological evidence with history deciphered from Maya inscriptions and glyphs, this popular book made the mysterious Maya more accessible to twentieth-century readers.

Linda Schele (1942-1998) had been deeply involved in the decipherment of Maya hieroglyphic writing and, by the 1980s, had developed a way of interpreting the essence of Maya society through the integration of studies of its art, archaeology, and hieroglyphic writing. This approach was exemplified in A Forest of Kings, which she cowrote with Freidel. Their story was one of war, territorial expansion, and the very great impact of ritual-particularly ritual associated with the passage of time. A Forest of Kings was structured around detailed discussions of each of the Maya centers that allowed Schele and Freidel to weave inscriptions, art, architecture, and archaeology into a persuasive tapestry of life among the classic Maya. Significantly, Schele and Freidel sought to maximize the impact of the deciphered inscriptions in the sense that they could "go beyond" the translated text and empirical evidence to produce plausible interpretations of Maya life.

Further Reading Coe, M. 2000. Breaking the Maya code: The last great decipherment of an ancient script. Rev. ed. London: Penguin. Proskouriakoff, T. 1960. Historical implications of a pattern of dates at Piedras Negras, Guatemala. American Antiquity 25 (4): 454-475. Schele, L., and D. Freidel. 1990. A forest of kings: The untold story of the ancient Maya. New York: Morrow. Solomon, C. 2003. Tatiana Proskouriakoff, interpreting the Ancient Maya. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press.


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