Tactics, Trophies and Titles: A Comparative Perspective on Ancient Maya Raiding
Research output: Contribution to journal › Journal article › Research › peer-review
Archaeological and epigraphic data have greatly increased our understanding of ancient Maya warfare in recent decades. Nevertheless, one of the aspects that has received relatively little attention is the disambiguation between the different types of wars waged. The procurement of human trophies as attested in the archaeological record and imagery, as well as the counts-of-captives and captive statements recorded textually, all provide tantalizing clues that raids formed an integral part of Classic Maya military tactics. This rings particularly true when we consider that the Classic Maya terms for "captive and bone" are one and the same, thereby betraying emic conceptions wherein captives were deemed to be an ideal source of bone; human trophies par excellence. The features identified for the Classic Maya have to be set within a larger perspective since these are also found among other Mesoamerican cultures, as well as indigenous societies in both North and South America. In so doing, it becomes clear that raiding and the acquisition of captives and human trophies served to foster and heighten prestige, especially among societies that cultivated the warrior ethos. Therefore, raiding emerges as a shared Amerindian trait, rather than being the product of diffusion or independent innovation.