A Forest of Kings (Magill Book Reviews)
Linda Schele, an authority in Mayan art and epigraphy, and David Freidel, a specialist in Mayan archaeology, are both scholars. A FOREST OF KINGS, however, is addressed to the interested reader as well as to the scholarly professional. The historical charts, linguistic notes, maps, line diagrams, glossary of gods and icons, footnotes, and bibliographical references are interlaced with anecdotal essays that describe Schele’s first glimpse of the ruins of Palenque, or Freidel’s sense of awe when he encounters the great Sun mask in Belize. The authors also include vignettes, fictionalized narratives reconstructing the thoughts and feelings of historical figures. These “dramatizations” are not always successful.
The name Chichen Itza is likely to be familiar to most readers, and it is to this fabled heart of the Mayan empire that the authors turn after describing southern Yucatan. While the Mayan kingdoms of the southern lowlands were collapsing in political chaos, Chichen Itza [‘well of the Itza’] extended its influence throughout Mesoamerica. The authors argue that the north resisted the social collapse of the south because the northern nobility developed a new system of political governance called MUL TEPAL or joint rule. Unlike the art and architecture of the southern kingdoms, which delineates dynastic history, the focus in Chichen Itza is upon rituals of dedication carried out by groups of nobles.
The authors of this richly...
(The entire section is 300 words.)
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A Forest of Kings (Magill's Literary Annual 1991-2005)
In this ambitious description of Mayan civilization, Linda Schele and David Freidel attempt to reconstruct the history of a highly civilized people from their surviving monuments and from the ruins still being excavated by archaeologists. The coauthors, Schele and Freidel, are both scholars. Schele, author of Maya Glyphs: The Verbs (1982) and coauthor with Mary Ellen Miller of the influential exhibition catalog, The Blood of Kings: Dynasty and Ritual in Maya Art (1986; see Magill’s Literary Annual, 1987), is the recipient of the Tania Proskouriakoff Award for achievement in the study of New World archaeology from Harvard’s Peabody Museum, and she now holds the position of John D. Murchinson Regents Professor in Art at the University of Texas in Austin. Freidel, who has received fellowships from Dumbarton Oaks and the National Geographic Society as well as numerous national foundations, teaches archaeology at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. A Forest of Kings: The Untold Story of the Ancient Maya, however, is addressed to the interested lay reader as well as to the scholarly professional. The historical charts, linguistic notes, maps, line diagrams, glossary of gods and icons, footnotes, and bibliographical references are interlaced with anecdotal essays that describe Schele’s first glimpse of the ruins of Palenque, or Freidel’s sense of awe when he encountered the great Sun mask in Belize. The authors also include...
(The entire section is 1972 words.)