Archaeology Magazine Archive

A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America

Special Introductory Offer!
Insider: The Once and Future Maya Volume 60 Number 5, September/October 2007
by David Freidel

Masks of gods, a conqueror's elbows, and three other recent discoveries are determining the future of Maya archaeology.

(Ken Feisel)

Every few months it seems another amazing discovery comes out of the rain forests of Central America: the stunning murals of San Bartolo, which celebrated Maya religion and writing at 100 B.C.; the bodies of 50 members of the royal court at Cancuén who appear to have been murdered when the city fell around A.D. 800; and, just 12 miles north of the ancient city of El Perú-Waká, where I've been excavating for the past five years, the city of La Corona was recently confirmed as the elusive "Site Q" to which ancient texts refer. And the pace of discoveries has quickened in recent years.

Still, we are only beginning to understand the origins of the Maya religion and royal dynasties, as well as the political, economic, and military relationships between the Maya and their neighbors the Olmec and Teotihuacánoes. There are roughly 50 ongoing archaeological projects in the Maya region. Here are five excavations that haven't yet received much attention, but may indicate the direction of future research.

David Freidel is a contributing editor to ARCHAEOLOGY and a professor of anthropology at Southern Methodist University.

© 2007 by the Archaeological Institute of America