The Maya (Ancient Peoples & Places)
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The Maya (Ancient Peoples & Places)

3.81 of 5 stars 3.81  ·  rating details  ·  437 ratings  ·  33 reviews

"A clear and intelligent description of the development and organization of Maya civilization."�Natural History

The Maya has long been established as the best, most readable introduction to the New World's greatest ancient civilization. In these pages Professor Coe distills a lifetime's scholarship for the general reader and student. Since the publication of the sixth e...more
Paperback, 7th, 272 pages
Published March 30th 2005 by Thames & Hudson (first published 1966)
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Erik Graff
Oct 04, 2009 Erik Graff rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Maya fans
Recommended to Erik by: no one
Shelves: history
This was the best of the introductory books I've read about the Maya. Coe is a clear and engaging writer, excellent as a popularist. Newer editions are much updated as the Mayan script has since been decyphered. For the story of that see his Breaking the Mayan Code.
M.G. Mason
I always like to have a factual book on the go at the same time as a fiction and though books like this are generally often more work than pleasure, I must say that this was a pleasurable read as an introduction to a subject I previously knew very little about.

Quite possibly the most comprehensive book written on The Maya to date. It reads well both for a general audience and for scholarly readers. I bought this on recommendation of one of my University lecturers in preparation for my honeymoon...more
I'm read this in preparation for the lecture I have to give on SAS this May, and I'm very impressed with how thorough and accessible it is. I also like that Coe is up-front about what is unknown and/or debatable, and gives differing opinions about controversial questions.
Full of information albeit a bit dry. I guess it is a very good book if once you knew it all and now need to look something up. As a layman, I wish Paul B. Johnson wrote a book on the Maya civilization.
Interested in the Maya people of ancient Mesoamerica? Great maps, timelines, and information that is easy to find through the index. I've used this as a quoted resource in 4 books that I've written.
Valena Arguello
No they do not believe in a 2012 doomsday lol!
Mike Edwards
Coe does an adequate job of explaining what we think we know about Mayan culture and civilization. Of course, what we think we know about Mayan culture and civilization is very different from what we thought we knew about Mayan culture and civilization two decades ago--and will likely be very different from what we will think we know about Mayan culture and civilization two decades from now, and that is the fundamental problem. Basically everything that Coe says is either asinine or in dispute,...more
*Review of the 2011 8th edition*

Just like Coe's Mexico: From the Olmecs to the Aztecs, this is a straightforward, information packed book on the history of the Maya peoples and culture. It starts from their unknown historical ancestors and works its way up to their modern descendants, with plenty of beautiful photos to help one get a sense of the amazing variety of skill these amazing people possessed: from the tiniest, meticulously carved items, to the mountain sized pyramids that are still bei...more
April Brown
What ages would I recommend it too? – Twelve and up.

Length? – Several days day’s read.

Characters? – Memorable, several characters.

Setting? – Real World, Ancient Maya.

Written approximately? – 1999.

Does the story leave questions in the readers mind? – Yes - What was daily life like for the Maya?

Any issues the author (or a more recent publisher) should cover? No.

Short storyline: A lot of discussion around the Maya.

Notes for the reader: The first 50 pages are useful. There are a lot of pictures, th...more
I don't generally enjoy reading archaeology, but as a Roman historian I have had to learn how archaeology works. This book is a competent archaeological overview of the Maya sites. It is even enjoyable to read in many sections, though inevitably, for me, the greatest enjoyment came in the last few chapters, where Coe manages to incorporate information from Maya epigraphy and books, Bishop Landa's early post-contact accounts, and some 20th century ethnographies.

I picked up this book to get a basi...more
Scott Forbes
In reading The Maya, by Michael D. Coe, I was confronted with the abysmal lack of scholarship and discussion on any one issue. A complete cultural misunderstanding on the part of Coe must have contributed to the lack of any one dominant idea about the Maya, and the labeling of various parts as "holy," "Sacred," "divine," etc. All this book really does is what it does not. It does not refute the logocentric worldview inherent in such publication. However, the writing really is not a logocentric t...more
This is a very detailed book on the archaeological remains that have been found in Mesoamerica. It only has one paragraph at the end about the lifestyle of the ancient maya. The earliest Maya stone carving with text on it is dated about 100 AD. The civilization flowered in between 400 AD-900 AD with a brief lapse while they were controlled by the great city Teotihuacan in Mexico. The civilization ended abruptly but people went on to build the civilizations of the Toltecs and the Aztecs after the...more
This book is the companion volume to Mexico from the Olmecs to the Aztecs by the same author. It details what we know (based mainly on archaeological finds) about Mayan culture, focusing primarily on the pre-Columbian civilizations. It is a fascinating, if slightly dry, book (I imagine it's primarily used as a textbook). Mainly it details digs and ancient sites and what was found on these digs (there's a lot of description of pottery and wall paintings). I would definitely recommend it to anyone...more
A solid overview of Maya civilization. An interesting thing about the Maya is that only there monumental writing and some fragmentary religious texts have survived, so you get kind of 1/3 history 2/3 archaeology when discussing them. The Maya flourished in Central America around the Yucatan peninsula in between modern day southern Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, and Belize. The classic period of Maya civilization lasted only about 500 - 600 years (300 - 900 AD). They had a full blown civilization w...more
Pretty good read and a decent overview of the Maya. It is profusely illustrated with photographs and line drawings, and a very good section on the calendar and the Long Count.

A big frustration with this book is that Coe will describe an architectural feature, or a piece of jade work, or a stela in terms that make the reader acknowledge its importance, but.... there's no picture! He does this throughout the text and by the time I finished the book, I was ready to say good riddance. The book is a...more
This book presents a good general overview of Maya history and culture, including geography, architecture, linguistics, diet, mythology, and calendar. It's nicely illustrated as well, mostly with black and white photos, but there were several pages of color inserts as well. Coe doesn't delve too deeply into any one city's history but builds a picture of the Maya era as a whole. Although the focus is on the Preclassic, Classic, and post-Classic eras, up to around 1200 AD, Coe also includes a chap...more
Feb 23, 2010 Alex rated it 3 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2009
Extremely dense - think of this as a textbook - but apparently the most comprehensive collection of information about the Maya. I was influenced by Jared Diamond, who in the "Further Reading" section of his excellent "Collapse" says so in no uncertain terms.

Fun trivia: you know that 2012 bs? It's this guy's fault. In an earlier edition of this book, he idly pointed out that the Mayan calendar is cyclical and a cycle ends in 2012; conspiracy theorists took it from there. In this edition he commen...more
Kristen Giessler
Michael D. Coe is considered one of the top of Mayan archaeologists of contemporary time. He did his bachelors and PhD at Harvard University, and is Professor Emeritus of Anthropology at Yale University. I really liked how he discussed the various periods of the Mayan civilization, and how the topography of the land lent to differences in how the Mayans developed across the Yucatan lowlands versus the Guatemalan highlands. I only read sections of it, due to time, but I would love to read it in f...more
Very informative and great pictures, but the writing was awkward to read. There were a lot of obscure word choices and some of the sentences were just difficult to read because the syntax was sometimes out of order. Even saying them out loud, they just sounded odd and it distracted me from the content. Same with the Mexico book by this author. Plus, I wish more of the pitures were in color. It was difficult to see the details in some of the art and heiroglyphs in black and white.
If you are at all interested in the Mayan culture, this book is for you. Well written and organized with many maps, pictures and illustrations this books explains life in the Yucatan, Guatamala and Belize area where the Maya lived. This covers from about 3000BC to about 1500 and a little history about present day life there. Try to get the latest edition possible of this book, because things are constantly being discovered there. I want to go there sometime.
I found this book somewhat less readable than the publisher's description suggested, but nonetheless a good overview of ancient Mayan history and culture.

The index is excellent, making it easy to look up a topic or location of interest and read just those sections (I did this before visiting the ruins of Chichen Itza), and the pictures throughout are very good as well.

Recommended for those interested in the subject matter.
A good overview that would work well with an actual classroom course on the subject. In that way it feels a bit like it's depending very much on the additional material you would get from a lecture. Still, it's an interesting book that puts the progression from Pre-Classis to modern times in perspective with all the various influences from the Itza to the Aztec to Teotihuacan.
Pretty dry reference material. Lots of archaeological details, unpronounceable names of people, places, gods, rites, etc. Read for the next museum exhibit, so good general background of Maya.
I will be reading this book for a long time. It is a text book, so I know that I won't be able to read it straight through or without highlighting things. I am doing things in reverse order, first I visited Mayan ruins, now I learning about the amazing things I saw in Mexico.
Leonide Martin
One of the first archeologist-written books to reach a wide audience, it provides a good overview of Maya culture with many fine illustrations. Considered a popular Maya classic.
This is a great book for review. While it is more like a text book, if you ever want to know more about the Maya, this is the book to have.
Μια ιδανικη εισαγωγη για οσους θελουν να γνωρισουν τον μεγαλυτερο αρχαιο πολιτισμου του Νεοτερου Κοσμου, τους μυστηριωδεις Μαγια.
Apr 22, 2008 Julie rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Archeaology nuts
This is an excellent resource book. I took it with me to Palenque, Mexico and was able to read Mayan glyphs.
I read his book prior to a trip to Central America. It had far too much detail for my needs.
Ernie Dawson
Michael Coe is one of the foremost authorities on the Maya.
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Michael D. Coe (born 1929) is an American archaeologist, anthropologist, epigrapher and author. Primarily known for his research in the field of pre-Columbian Mesoamerican studies (and in particular, for his work on the Maya civilization, where he is regarded as one of the foremost Mayanist scholars of the latter 20th century). Coe has also made extensive investigations across a variety of other a...more
More about Michael D. Coe...
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