My Favorite Lecture - "Maya Warfare"
Overpopulation. Epidemics. Economic recession. Deforestation. Anger toward elites.
Though the causes of Maya warfare may look straightfoward, piecing together its weaponry, tactics and broader effects is anything but.
In this episode, Marisol Cortes-Rincon reveals some of what we know about Mesoamerican conflict, and how we know it.
Cortes-Rincon says archeology can be pretty tedious. Every summer, she and Humboldt State students go to a dig site in Belize. It’s hot. It’s muggy. There are bugs. They spend hours of methodically sifting and exploring the dirt,, and then even more hours logging everything into a spreadsheet.
But the work does have its moments. Like when a Jaguar shows up at your tent. Or when you hypothesize how that pit full of human skills got there. Or what volcano made that obsidian artifact.
But piecing that all together requires an interdisciplinary approach. Economics, class, architecture, trade, environmental conditions, and archeology all come into play. Also, "We do a lot of experimental projects," she says.
"And the reason for that is, we want to see how effective were these particular weapons. This is a tropical rainforest, so the wooden part of a spear or a longsword wouldn't actually preserve because it's organic material and would completely dissolve." So she and her students build replicas of weapons like this macuahuitl, which is said to be able to decapitate a horse.
Defensive ditch, Becan, Yucatan Yucatan, Mexico
Beyond the tactics, the strategies could be equally gruesome. Cortest-Rincon discusses a skull pit, which may have been a conqueror's attempt to end an entire bloodline. Part of the challenge is combining knowledge of traditional life with forensic evidence.
- Lady Six Sky
- Colha archeological site map
- Colha skull pit research
- Spike TV's feature on the Aztec Macuahuitl
- Justin Kerr database of images and artifacts
- Michael Peterson, flint knapper and weapon-builder
My Favorite Lecture is a collaboration with Arcata Main Street and Humboldt State University with support from Plaza Grill. Subscribe to the podcast at iTunes to never an episode.
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