How the Maya Built Their World: Energetics and Ancient Architecture

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University of Texas Press, Jun 4, 2010 - Social Science - 192 pages
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Maya architecture is often described as "massive" and "monumental," but experiments at Copan, Honduras, convinced Elliot Abrams that 300 people could have built one of the large palaces there in only 100 days.

In this groundbreaking work, Abrams explicates his theory of architectural energetics, which involves translating structures into volumes of raw and manufactured materials that are then multiplied by the time required for their production and assembly to determine the labor costs of past construction efforts. Applying this method to residential structures of the Late Classic period (A.D. 700-900) at Copan leads Abrams to posit a six-tiered hierarchic social structure of political decision making, ranging from a stratified elite to low-ranking commoners. By comparing the labor costs of construction and other economic activities, he also prompts a reconsideration of the effects of royal construction demands on commoners.

How the Maya Built Their World will interest a wide audience in New and Old World anthropology, archaeology, architecture, and engineering.

 

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Contents

Introduction
1
Background to Architectural Energetics at Copan
9
Maya Architectural Forms
20
The Energetics of Construction
37
Costs and the Construction Process
63
Energetics and the Hierarchy of Social Power
76
The Organization of Construction Labor
96
Architecture and Economics
109
Conclusions
125
Costs per Task per Structure
133
Reuse Savings
147
References
151
Index
169
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