Chapter 3 Summary Forest of Kings




Brice Hayden
September 16, 1999
Professor Lorenz


The main focus of the 20th century, or ever before that, is that we have made most of the singular inventions of mankind. However, another more fundamental form of invention existed. If we look at the Maya as a culture without many significant advances, they had few technological wonders. They were a Stone Age people lacking rudimentary developments such as the use of metal and the domestication of beasts of burden. They in there own right had invented ideas that harnessed social energy. The genius if the Maya was expressed through the creation of this new power. The invented political symbols that transformed and coordinated such age-old institutions as the extended family, the village, the shaman and the patriarch in the stuffing of life. It is, however, no coincidence that Maya kingship and Maya Writing emerged simultaneously in the century before the Common Era, for the technology of the writing served as the main functions of Maya daily life. It would be incorrect to say that they had invented this new institution from their own experiences, because kings had been around in Mesoamerica for a least a thousand years.
The Late Preclassic town of Cerros was one of Maya communities to experience the advent of kingship during the period of its invention. This village was strategically situated to command the mouth of the New River where it emptied into Chetumal Bay on the eastern coast of the Yucatan Peninsula. Cerros was at a cultural edge, for the people of this village were seafarers and traders familiar with distant peoples. These peoples were visiting traders that were wise in the ways of the neighboring Maya cities and the foreign people beyond. The people of Cerros did decide to embrace kingship, as they had learned it, and the consequences of those actions. In the time of two generations, the small fishing village had been transformed into a mighty acropolis. Every single person in the city had accounted in the transformation, from the lowliest fisherman to the highest shamans of the village. Around 50 BC the town began the revolutionary program of “urban renewal” which buried their village under broad plastered plazas and massive temples. The home life of the Cerros people changed to account for such an act. Sacrifices were performed over the foundations of their old homes. After years and years of living in one fashion these people threw it away for something better. And in this life they had made themselves better.
After a period of this living, the Kings of Cerros had abandoned this way of life and returned to their estates on the outskirts of the town. They destroyed a lot of the work they had created because they had not succeeded. They took the pottery and the jewelry of their time and of their people and smashed it. They had become almost angry and the kings for making them change their way of life. The temples of Cerros had fallen to ruin. The question of why Cerros failed haunts archaeologists today. A major problem may have been the balance of power in the respected bloodlines of the peoples. Certain generations of people took control and their control may not have been rightly asserted. Another cause may have been that the people of Cerros couldn’t cope with a large-scale society. No one can ever be sure, but we sure like to guess.




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