Unconquered Lacandon Maya
Ethnohistory and Archaeology of Indigenous Culture Change

Joel W. Palka

Foreword by Diane and Arlen Chase, Series Editors
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"This work helps fill a huge gap in the knowledge about Lacandon Maya society in the 19th century. As a work of historical archaeology it brings a degree of precision and accuracy to an area dominated by the romantic fantasies of a generation of writers."--R. Jon McGee, Texas State University

In 1946, explorers stumbled upon two unexpected discoveries in the jungles of Chiapas, Mexico: a treasure of well-preserved Classic Maya murals and a thriving society of indigenous Maya peoples living in the lowland rainforest. Over subsequent decades, these Lacandon Maya were assumed to be the direct descendants of the Classic Maya, who created the spectacular temples and monumental art of the region. As impressive as this lineage may be, Joel Palka argues that many scholars have romanticized it at the expense of documenting the substantive social changes the Lacandon experienced after the Spanish Colonial Period.

The Lacandon are unique among the Maya of Mesoamerica because they remained free while others were conquered; the Lacandon Maya were the only Maya people never completely colonized by Spain, which led to specific cultural adaptations to contact. Using new cultural, historical, and archeological evidence, Palka offers the most comprehensive and balanced study of the Lacandon to date. His groundbreaking argument is that other Maya, and not just the Spanish, brought extensive changes to the Lacandon way of life.

The unearthing of neglected areas of Lacandon ethnohistory, the synthesis of data from archival and ethnographic studies, and the addition of compelling archaeological information from newly discovered sites all add to this complete and richly elucidated treatise of Lacandon cultural change. Palka's study is a fine and significant contribution to the story of the Lacandon Maya and is of interest to archaeologists, ethnohistorians, and anthropologists of the Maya and Mesoamerica as a whole.

Joel W. Palka is assistant professor of anthropology and Latin American and Latino studies at the University of Illinois, Chicago. He is the author of The Historical Dictionary of Ancient Mesoamerica.

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"A valuable resource for readers interested in particular aspects of Lacandon history and everyday life."

"This superb study will be of interest not only to Maya archaeologists and historians, but also to archaeologists conducting research into tribal groups worldwide."
--Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute

…a detailed portrait of the forms of historical interaction by which supposedly traditional Lacandon culture was reproduced and modified over the past two centuries. It is a portrait clarified by his effective use of both written and archaeological data.
--Journal of Anthropological Research

This superb study will be of interest not only to Maya archaeologists and historians, but also to archaeologists conducting research into tribal groups worldwide.
--Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute

" Palka's invaluable study, in addition to introducing a wealth of information and insights, is an important methodological contribution to Lacandon studies and indeed to Maya and indigenous studies in general."
--Journal of Latin American Studies

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