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Terminal Long Count Dates and the Disintegration of Classic Period Maya polities


Analyses of terminal long count dates from stone monuments in the Maya lowlands have played a central role in characterizing the rise and “collapse” of polities during the Late and Terminal Classic periods (a.d. 730–910). Previous studies propose a directional abandonment of large political centers from west-to-east. We retest the west-to-east hypothesis, using Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and spatial statistics to analyze an updated dataset of 89 terminal dates from the Maya Hieroglyphic Database (MHD). Our results do not support a directional collapse, but instead suggest a contraction of Terminal Classic polities around seven core areas in the Maya lowlands. Three regions demonstrate distinct subregional abandonments of monument carving over a period of 24 to 127 years, consistent with independent archaeological data for each region. Advances in GIS, spatial statistics, and related methods applied to an increasingly detailed and comprehensive epigraphic and archaeological database provide a foundation for examining long-term sociopolitical dynamics in the Maya lowlands.

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