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Investigating the Integrative Strategies of the Classic Maya Copan Polity on Its Southeastern Frontier

Erlend Johnson, Tulane University, Summer Fellow 2017–2018

I wrote several chapters of my dissertation investigating the political organization and integrative strategies of the Classic-period Maya at the Copan polity of western Honduras. Because it was surrounded by non-Maya neighbors with distinct cultures and political structures, evidence for both material links from and structural transformations instigated by the Copan polity are more visible there than at contemporary sites in the Maya heartland. My thesis examines both the timing and degree of political changes during the Classic period (100–900) in the Cucuyagua and Sensenti valleys, 25 and 50 kilometers southeast of Copan, respectively. Results from survey and excavation indicate that a Maya lowland-style political hierarchy was adopted in the Cucuyagua valley by the Late Classic period (600–900), suggesting that it was integrated into the Copan polity. Evidence of a fragmentary, heterarchical political system in the Sensenti valley during the Late Classic period suggests that this area remained outside Copan’s administrative orbit, though there is evidence for both trade links and influence from Copan in that region.