A science of networks approach to ancient Maya sociopolitical organization
Aylesworth, Grant Russell
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Was ancient Maya sociopolitical organization, overall, centralized or decentralized? Does the application of a new technique of analysis, borrowed from the science of networks (network theory), aid in understanding Classic period sociopolitical organization? This dissertation seeks to explore Classic Maya sociopolitical organization through the application of small world and scale free models derived from the science of networks. The research presented combines archaeological fieldwork in northwestern Belize, Central America with evidence from ancient Maya inscriptions to evaluate the potential of applying network theory methods to studies of ancient Maya sociopolitical organization. This dissertation is divided into five chapters which provide an overview of the climate, physiography, flora, and fauna of the research area, an outline of previous archaeological research in the region, the general culture history of the area from the Paleoindian to the Postclassic periods, results of excavations and mapping at two sites very close to, or arguably part of the site of Dos Hombres, Belize. The final chapter is a review of select aspects of ancient Maya sociopolitical organization focusing on issues related to centralized and decentralized models, which have dominated research for the last 30 years. Through the analysis of network graphs I show that the science of networks can be used to gain insight into ancient Maya sociopolitical interaction. Taken as a whole, I find that Classic period sociopolitical interaction was decentralized and can be characterized as a scale free small world network. Further, network analysis provides insight into the roles of ancient Maya sites as hubs of the Classic period sociopolitical landscape. These findings, in general, tend to agree with previous attempts to rank sites based on volume of architecture and courtyard counts. Since the political system was dominated by few hubs with many links, it was vulnerable to dissolution if one or two of those hubs were destroyed. The presentation and analysis of network graphs yields insights into the nature of ancient Maya sociopolitical organization. Ceramic associations are briefly examined from a science of networks perspective. Results affirm that it is useful to apply network theory to the study of ancient Maya sociopolitical organization.