Version classiqueVersion mobile

Arquitectura y Arqueología

Paul Gendrop

A summary view

Joseph W. Ball

Texte intégral

1Arquitectura, cronología, y metodología comprised the three-fold focus of the 1984 CEMCA symposium organized by Dr. Paul Gendrop and Dr. George F. Andrews and held in Mexico City on June 28th and 29th. It is fitting, therefore, that the most substantive presentations and conclusions resulting from this conference involve the interplay of these three themes.

2So well do the research findings of Gendrop and Andrews mesh that it is difficult to consider them apart, despite the fact that their efforts have been independent and have involved quite different approaches. George Andrews provides us with a wealth of new data from both the Puuc zone proper and the intermediate area bordered by it, the Chenes zone, and the Edzná realm. He then proceeds to use these data in developing a good case for the movement of architectural and decorative influence into the eastern Puuc zone from the intermediate Chenes-Puuc, Chenes, and, ultimately, Río Bec subregions. Although relying all but entirely on architectural observations, Andrews is persuasive in his suggestions and reminds us of the pressing need for a new round of problem-oriented archaeological and epigraphic investigations in the Chenes and Puuc subregions if cogent further progress toward resolution of “the Puuc question” is to be achieved.

3Paul Gendrop has taken the matter of interrelationships and influences involving the Río Bec, Chenes, and Puuc regions a giant step further. By means of a meticulous and exhaustive analysis cum seriation of architectural features, architectonic elements and stylistic themes, he has succeeded in producing a convincing relative chronology for each of these “styles”, and in documenting the probable movement of ideational influences from the Rio Bec to the Chenes and then Puuc zones during the Late and early Terminal Classic periods. Absolute dates are assigned to the architectural sequence by cross-reference to dated ceramic associations and selected radiocarbon determinations. Gendrop’s contribution, elaborated more fully in his newly published book, Los estilos Río Bec, Chenes y Puuc en la arquitectura maya (1983), provides an important model for fieldtesting by those genuinely interested in the cultural history of the Northern Maya lowlands. Now that a wellfounded model of relationships and interactions among the peoples of the Río Bec, Chenes, and Puuc subregions has been proposed, field archaeologists should focus their investigations specifically on testing and refining it and its implications.

4The contributions by Lawrence Mills and Carlos Navarrete both focus on issues of stylistic analysis. Mills surveys and discusses a series of themes common to and so linking the relief-columns integrally associated with many Puuc buildings. This is of considerable import in its contribution toward establishing a valid corpus of genuinely “Puuc” as contrasted to Puuc-Chenes or Puuc-Chenes-Río Bec iconography. Navarrete reminded us once more that the origins of many Classic Maya motifs can be traced back to the Early/Middle Formative Olmec and their contemporaries.

5Ramón Carrasco and Sylviane Boucher have written a paper of major methodological importance with respect to the structural and historical analysis of Central Yucatan architecture. Eschewing the traditional chronological pigeonholing of single whole buildings and structures by means of single, generally isolated subfloor ceramic “samples”, they argue for an approach predicated upon the principles of civil engineering to interpret and understand the construction history and relationships of architectural monuments within and between sites. Beginning with a minimal unit, the construction phase, in and of itself a “production step” rather than a completed entity, they proceed to Show how the definition of these; of architectonic phases (minimally, single completed structures or buildings); and of architectonic styles could foster an understanding of architectural developments throughout the Maya lowlands as fine-tuned in its ability to discriminate for the existence and direction of regional interactions as that currently obtainable from ceramic studies. Carrasco illustrates this approach from his recent work at Hochob, Dzibilnocac, and Xpuhil.

6In the paper presented by Antonio Benavides and Linda Manzanilla, the all-too-often forgotten light that extensive horizontal excavations can shed on the use and functional interrelationships of Classic period Maya buildings is called dramatically to our attention. Their work at Cobá represents an important step toward developing a data-based rather than speculative reconstruction of that center’s social structure and organization.

7Finally, amidst our concerns with the ideological and sociocultural manifestations of Late into Terminal Classic Northern Maya civilization, William J. Folan reminds us of the potential effects of climatic change upon the historical scenario with which we are dealing. While I find myself somewhat uncomfortable with Folan’s revival of monothetic environmental determinism as the causative factor in Maya civilization’s rise and fall, I do think an awareness of the developmental parameters produced by differing climatic and environmental conditions is important to any healthily well-rounded comprehension of ancient Maya lifeways.

8If any major issue received less than satisfactory treatment at the symposium, it was that of absolute chronology. While Carrasco and Boucher provide an excellent recipe for understanding the relative structural chronology of individual buildings, a means for chronometrically relating these or cross-referencing them to other structures remains elusive. The same problem affects the studies by Gendrop and Andrews as well as that by Benavides and Manzanilla.

9The simple fact of the matter is that both our accepted chronologies and our current approach to dating structural contexts are inadequate to meet our needs and expectations. For some fifty years, Maya archaeologists have relied for “chronological control” on a succession of local ceramic sequences which in fact are “dated” only through cross-reference to each other; through cross-reference to a handful of selected (“acceptable”) radiocarbon determination; and through cross-reference to an even smaller body of loosely associated Maya Long Count positions. To be frank, neither the accepted absolute values nor the assumed durational precisions of most pre-Cortesian ceramic phases from the Maya lowlands are adequate to resolve the questions and problems raised by Carrasco, Andrews, and Gendrop. Desperately needed are tighter, more accurate, and more precise means of chronometric assessment.

10Whith respect to the hallowed radiocarbon method, I believe the time has come for Mayanists to exercise and to express openly a bit of well-deserved, healthy skepticism. Both the accuracy and precision of this method are less than satisfactory, and in the absence of multiple dates from different substances for any single context, I suggest the most reasonable approach be to regard any determination(s) as questionable. All too often, it is blatantly clear in the literature that the real role of radiocarbon dating has been to bolster personal beliefs concerning prehistory rather than to test them or establish valid chronologies (cf Kelley 1982). Until the reliability of the radiocarbon method can be improved considerably or at least specified more precisely, I must rate it a poor handmaiden at best in the task of resolving such fine-scale problems as concern us at this conference. A determined search for an evaluation of alternative methods —such, for example, as obsidian hydration dating— should be a priority for Lowland Maya archaeologists.

11The foregoing somewhat downbeat observations aside, I would now like to direct attention to the significant “breakthrough” in our modeling of Central Yucatan-Puuc cultural historical events that resulted from the 1984 CEMCA symposium. In his paper, George Andrews presented four hypothetical reconstructions of architectural and general cultural historical developments in the Northern Maya lowlands during the Late and Terminal Classic periods as these might have related to the architectonic traditions of each subregions. Consideration and discussion of these during the conference resulted in production of a fifth, “hybrid” model as described and illustrated on the next page (fig. 1).

12Conjunctive evaluation of the architectural and ceramic data now available from the Rio Bec, Chenes, and Puuc subregions suggests that any of the earlier proposed models alone is inadequate to describe the cultural historical phenomena taking place between roughly A.D. 550 and 900, but that a model combining modified versions of c and d as proposed by Andrews (see fig. 73, p. 39, this volume) might go far toward so doing. We propose such here as a distillation of the 1984 CEMCA symposium’s deliberations

13As the basic framework of our model, we propose that many of the themes, modes, and elements common to and generally regarded as characteristic of the Río Bec, Chenes, and Puuc architectural styles most probably developed within the Rio Bec zone of the Central Yucatan region during the very late sixth and seventh centuries, reaching their fruition and spreading north-wesward into the Chenes and Puuc subregions during the eighth and ninth (see Andrews, this volume; Gendrop, this volume; Potter 1976; 1977). The three zones together are seen as comprising a single, temporally extended interaction sphere within which the movement of ideas and information would have been a relatively straightforward, natural matter (see Freidel 1979 for a detailed discussion of interaction spheres and their potential role in the development of Lowland Maya civilization).

14An early-to-middle-ninth century intrusion of aggressively competitive Mexicanized Itzá onto the northern coastal plain of Yucatan is comprehended by the model, and in turn is seen as a plausible stimulus for an extensive southward movement of actual populations on this horizon, this time reflected in the flow of ceramic modes and pottery-making conventions from the Puuc and Chenes into the Río Bec zone (see Ball 1974; 1977). The apparently progressive abandonment of western Puuc and Chenes centers at this time lends further credence to such a reconstruction.

1. Chart showing Chenes-Puuc architecture as result of 1) a blend of Chenes and Puuc traits coming mainly from South to North as a transitional phase between early and “classic” Puuc, and 2) a later Puuc influence from north to South affecting most Chenes sites but no Río Bec sites. Chart made by George F. Andrews (see addendum, p. 88).

15Our hybrid model of informational flow-direction for selected themes and elements as manifested architectonically and ceramically among the centers of the Río Bec-Chenes-Puuc interaction sphere during the Late through Terminal Classic periods is depicted by George Andrews in figure 1.

16Obviously, the foregoing propositions all remain to be tested seriously in the field. Nonetheless, we believe that their simple definition and presentation more than amply fulfill the hopes of this symposium’s participants. Now the real work begins...


17During the discussion following the presentation of this paper, Joseph W. Ball indicated that he no longer favored the invasion of the Puuc region by the Putún Maya and was willing to concede that the architectural evidence now available tended to support the south to north flow of stylistic influences as proposed by Andrews and Gendrop. In spite of this, the fact remains that ceramics from the Xcocom phase in the Río Bec region do show some influences from the Puuc region even though these influences did not extend to architecture. As the result of this discussion, a fifth “hybrid” model was developed by the participants, which accomodates both positions. This is shown in figure 1 p. 87.

18George F. Andrews

19El contenido y forma de los artículos que aparecen en esta publicación son responsabilidad de sus autores.

Arriba. Santa Rosa Xtampak, Campeche. El Palacio. Estudio de reconstitución según planos de Teoberto Maler y Richard Stamps. Nota: las cresterías así como las escalinatas de acceso a los santuarios o “torres semifuncionales” en ambos extremos del cuerpo inferior, son meramente hipotéticas. Dibujo Paul Gendrop.



BALL, Joseph W.
A coordinate approach to northern Maya prehistory: A.D. 700-1200; American Antiquity 39 (1): 85-93.
Archaeological ceramics of Becan, Campeche, Mexico; Middle American Research Institute Pub. 31, Tulane University.

Culture areas and interaction spheres: contrasting approaches to the emergence of civilization in the Maya lowlands; American Antiquity 44 (1): 36-54.

Los estilos Rio Bec, Chenes y Puuc en ta arquitectura maya. UNAM, México.

Prehispanic architecture and sculpture in central Yucatán; American Antiquity 41 (4): 430-448.
Maya architecture of the central Yucatan peninsula; Middle American Research Institute Pub. 44, Tulane University.


(Department of Anthropology, San Diego State University)

© Centro de estudios mexicanos y centroamericanos, 1985

Conditions d’utilisation :

Cette publication numérique est issue d’un traitement automatique par reconnaissance optique de caractères.


Rechercher dans OpenEdition Search

Vous allez être redirigé vers OpenEdition Search