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Socioeconomic Networks and the Rise of Maya Civilization

The web of complexity at Middle Preclassic Cahal Pech, Belize

Sherman W. Horn III
Publication Year:
348 pages, Illustrated throughout in colour and black and white. 69 tables, 111 figures.
Sub-series name:
Archaeology of the Maya, 7
BAR number:


This study examines the origins of complex society in the Maya Lowlands during the Middle Preclassic period. Excavations at Cahal Pech - a mid-sized Maya settlement in the Belize River Valley - revealed complex architectural sequences over a 600-year developmental period, which spans the time of the earliest permanent villages in the area and the emergence of institutionalized hierarchy characteristic of later Maya civilization. The author uses spatial analysis to investigate artifact distribution patterns related to architectural change and marshals a diverse dataset to support a network framework for understanding developing complexity. This new theoretical framing expands on studies of long-distance exchange to examine how households and communities could gain advantage by participating in interaction networks, and how the positioning of some entities in networks could have produced socioeconomic inequalities that became entrenched through time.

Sherman W. Horn III is Research Associate at Exploring Solutions Past and Research Scientist at HD Analytical Solutions, Inc. He completed a PhD in anthropology at Tulane University in 2015. Sherman has worked in the Maya area since 2003 and has published papers on architecture, settlement, remote sensing, and materials analysis.

‘Mayanists will find the volume a highly useful and stimulating addition to the existing corpus of publications.' Dr David Pendergast, UCL

‘Horn’s volume is a welcome addition to archaeological literature as it presents the actual excavation data and artefactual materials upon which the newer theoretical formulations about the Middle Preclassic period are based […] It provides a trove of information for future researchers.’ Professor Arlen Chase, Pomona College

Table of Contents (S3009_ToC.pdf, 202 Kb) [Download]

Foreword and Introduction (S3009_Foreword_Introduction.pdf, 379 Kb) [Download]