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Inequality, Wealth, and Market Exchange in the Maya Lowlands

A household-based approach to the economy of Uxul, Campeche, Mexico

Els Barnard
Publication Year:
360 pages. Illustrated throughout in black and white and colour. 84 figures and 67 tables.
Sub-series name:
Archaeology of the Maya, 9
BAR number:


This volume examines the economic system of the Classic Maya Lowlands center of Uxul, Campeche, a secondary center under the political influence of Calakmul. A household-based approach is used to review the urban economic system in which these households played a central role. Multiple lines of evidence are combined here, using both quantitative and qualitative methods, to study economic inequality, settlement organization, social integration, power structures, consumption, production, and exchange at the site. The results suggest that the economy of Uxul was largely based on market exchange, and although wealth inequality was high, people along the socio-economic spectrum had significant economic agency, comparable quality of life, and economic mobility was possible. This study shows that the implementation of a multifaceted household-based approach allows for a more complete understanding of the complex economy of an ancient urban center.

Els Barnard is a researcher specialized in the study of ancient households, settlement systems, and urban economic processes, with a particular focus on Mesoamerican and Maya archaeology. She studied at Leiden University, the Netherlands, and obtained her PhD in archaeology at the University of Bonn, Germany, in 2021.

‘The data are completely new and of high quality. Looking at marketplaces through the lens of households is a new and exciting approach to the study of Maya economies. This work will contribute greatly to the debates of this critical topic in Maya archaeology.’ Professor Travis Stanton, University of California, Riverside

‘This is one of the most in-depth and informative studies on household archaeology that has appeared within the last few decades.’ Professor Arlen Chase, Pomona College

‘Archaeologists in other parts of the world would find this monograph relevant because Barnard’s research questions are broad issues in archaeology: how do we reconstruct social, economic and political regimes in ancient societies? Scholars all over the world ask the same questions and would benefit from reading how Barnard tackles these topics using a mixture of spatial/settlement and archaeological artefact data.’ Professor Antonia Foias, Williams College

Introduction (S3068_Barnard_9781407359151_-_introduction.pdf, 437 Kb) [Download]

Table of Contents (S3068_Barnard_9781407359151_-_ToC.pdf, 272 Kb) [Download]