A Forest of Kings: The Untold Story of the Ancient Maya
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A Forest of Kings: The Untold Story of the Ancient Maya

3.97 of 5 stars 3.97  ·  rating details  ·  240 ratings  ·  28 reviews
The recent interpretation of Maya hieroglyphs has given us the first written history of the New World as it existed before the European invasion. In this book, two of the first central figures in the massive effort to decode the glyphs, Linda Schele and David Freidel, make this history available in all its detail. A Forest of Kings is the story of Maya kingship, from the b...more
Paperback, 544 pages
Published January 24th 1992 by William Morrow Paperbacks (first published 1990)
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The joy of this book is that it was one of the first to be published after the major breakthrough in understanding the Maya script. No longer were we in the serene world of priestly astronomers but of the would be big beasts of the political jungle asserting their greatness, heritage and deeds on steles.

The obvious limitation is that as time moves on from publication, more is discovered and more is translated the more the views advanced in the book will be subject to revision.

However it tells of...more
I picked this up even though I learned from the index that Xunantunich, one of the only Mayan sites I've visited was mentioned only once in a throwaway line. Mayan history is interesting enough to be read about by more than academics and tourists. A Forest of Kings is a deceptively fat book, its last 150 pages are appendices and endnotes and the main text is full of illustrations which makes it a much easier read than you might think. The authors are certainly academics but they've made a really...more
This book is a great showcase of what we lost when the great Linda Schiele died. Though obviously the book is a bit outdated (we just know more about the Maya, particularly their written languages, now than when this book was written), it still holds surprising relevance to Mayan studies today. The technical information is presented in an accessible format that anyone can understand regardless of their previous knowledge/experience in Mayan studies.
This book also does something very unique tha...more
Silvio Curtis
Given that this book assumes no previous knowledge and sometimes words things melodramatically, but packs its information pretty densely, I'm guessing that it's intended as an introductory college textbook. The first chapter covers basics of pre-conquest Maya culture, and the last chapter discusses the collapse of Classic civilization and a little about the European conquest. In between, most chapters focus on a specific city: Cerros for the Pre-Classic rise of kingship and monumental architectu...more
Co-written by one of the most prominent Maya scholars of the 20th century, the late Linda Schele, this book examines the Mayan civilization through its linguistic legacy. Showing the processes which helped decipher a large amount of Mayan inscription, this book also describes their genealogical legacy as described through the Mayan stelae record.
Read ages ago on a trip to Honduras where I visited several Mayan sites. In general, reading about a place on a trip to the place usually reflects poorly on either the place or the literature. In this case, the literature suffered. But there is a lot of human sacrifice to keep the story in the red.
Linda Schele rules! and i hope all the mysteries of the maya were revealed to her when she entered xibalba. and I know she will trick the gods of death and emerge from the turtles back as a resplendent world tree shining under the mesoamerican sun!
The book started off very slowly and made some assumptions that only Westerners would be reading this book. I also found it hard to believe that rain dance of the Mayans worked and that historians must treat those customs with respect. These things in the beginning almost made me give up on the book, but the later chapters became more and more professional and detailed. Once I had reached the middle of the book, I had a lot more respect for the author than at the beginning.

Other than these mino...more
Read this in advance of our trip down to Chiapas to visit my sister and brother in-law at their archaeological site this coming spring. This was recommended by them as a good general overview...not to mention more readable than others. Not all her assertions have stood the test of time...but that's not the point. I saw Linda Shele once at a conference hosted by the BYU Anthropology Dept when I worked there. She was quite a character...refreshing in the field of archaeology. She's passed away sin...more
Edgar Olegario R.P.
I still read this book. To think Linda is gone, now that is a deafening loss. I learned everything I know about Mesoamerican culture from her. The isolated nature of the Maya (global influence) gives one a glimpse into the very nature of humanity. As always, the universal themes are all there, one after the other. If has in an indirect way afected so much of my anthropological perspective, that I don't even know were I would be if I never came across this book.
Ralph-Michael Chiaia
This book is amazing. It has a lot of information about the Classic Maya and it has parts written in a kind of day in the life fictionalized rendering of what life was like during that time period. Linda Schele was basically the god of mayan studies and this is one of her greatest books. If you're interested in the Mayan World, this book is an absolute must.
I read this while traveling the Yucatan peninsula visiting Mayan ruins, from well-known & touristy sites to partially excavated, remote and unknown ones. This book really brought the history and culture of the sites we visited to life and provided the context needed to really get an understanding of this amazing civilization.
if only all of this book were accurate. a too lucid history of the classic lowland specifically tikal and naranjo of the 500-900AD. essential because its speculations help guide the overall quest for a construction of the maya civilization. incredibly readable as it enters its final chapters.
Bevan Mcguiness
An interesting, scholarly treatment of a misunderstood race. I read it as research for my writing and it was very valuable. A dark and bloody history of superstition, violence and fear. That art and thinking could have arisen from such is testament to the strength of humanity.
Wayne Swanson
Dec 09, 2013 Wayne Swanson rated it 1 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: people with insomnia
Recommended to Wayne by: the sociopaths at columbia book club
Shelves: reference
This is the crap you get when you sign up for a 'book club', and don't refuse *every* book they think you want - you end up buying someone's master's thesis for $36.

I'm sure it's a nice book for the tens of people that are fascinated with the Mayans. I'm not one of them.
Jack althouse
anybody who needs calming down about 2012 should read this book. it gives the accurate translation of the mayan inscription that others have ignored in order to hype an end of the world event in 2012. ignore the hype. by stock instead. you'll be wealthy in 2013.
I have the 1990 fist edition paperback published by Morrow with color photos by Justin Kerr. With the break throughs in understanding and decoding the Maya Glyphs Schele and Freidel bring their impressive knowledge and scholarship to a panaramic view of the Maya world.
Doug Matthews
A wonderfully written book by two of the top Maya scholars in the world, containing an immense amount of information about the ancient Maya. It should be considered basic reading for anyone interested in learning more about this fascinating culture.
Jeb Card
The first real history of the Classic Maya using their texts. Somewhat outdated today, but an excellent read nonetheless, with ample illustration of texts and explanations for readings and interpretations by the authors.
Andrew Ragland
Excellent source material for my rolegaming campaign. Well organized, clear and lucid prose, and free of the woo that has so tragically infected Central American studies.
Lerner's condescending attitude overshadows the few decent things that she mentions--all of which can be found in better sources than her book.
Dec 28, 2009 Jess is currently reading it
Shelves: shamanism
I bought this book because Peg Turner, my Mayan Art and Archeology prof. suggested it to me to learn more about Mayan Shamanism and astrology
I read the first hundred pages or so during my trip to Cancun and Chichen Itza. It was great background about the ancient Maya.
A really great book that I did not read in chapter by chapter order. I think I have finished it, though. Maybe will evolve into 5 stars.
Aaron Baker
Excellent, though exhaustingly dense. Probably the clearest treatment of Mayan calendrics that I've ever read.
Freidel is such a good author. He tells the true story of this ancient people and it brings them alive.
Title in German:
Die unbekannte Welt der Maya - Das Geheimnis ihrer Kultur entschlüsselt
Ron Banister
Fascinating read....
Catherine marked it as to-read
Aug 14, 2014
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The Blood of Kings: Dynasty and Ritual in Maya Art The Code of Kings: The Language of Seven Sacred Maya Temples and Tombs Hidden Faces of the Maya Maya Glyphs, the Verbs Maya Glyphs: The Verbs

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