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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

3.96  ·  Rating Details ·  358 Ratings  ·  38 Reviews
Recent interpretation of Maya hieroglyphs has given the 1st written history of the New World as it existed before the European invasion. In this book, two of the 1st central figures in the effort to decode the glyphs, Linda Schele & David Freidel, detail this history. A Forest of Kings is the story of Maya kingship, from the beginning of its institution & the 1st g ...more
Paperback, 544 pages
Published January 24th 1992 by William Morrow (first published 1990)
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Erik Graff
Sep 20, 2015 Erik Graff rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Maya fans
Recommended to Erik by: no one
Shelves: history
I visited the NE Yucatan three times in the 1990s, devoting most of my time to hiking the coast and, with the help of young Maya, trekking overland to ruins they'd tell me of. Preparatory to these trips I'd read some of the literature, much of it dated. This then is one of the first books I've read which purports to be based on the recent decoding of Mayan script. Armed with this new insight, Schele and Freidel tell a number of stories, histories really, of several Mayan centers and the people w ...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
Dec 10, 2011 Kavita rated it liked it
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
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
Mar 19, 2012 Jesse rated it it was amazing
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!
Aug 10, 2012 Kyle rated it really liked it
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
Silvio Curtis
Sep 16, 2012 Silvio Curtis rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 19, 2008 Chris rated it really liked it
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.
Sep 12, 2007 Ryan rated it it was ok
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.
Jan 05, 2016 Alexander rated it it was ok
I am officially giving up on this book at page 185. While both authors are undisputed authorities in Mayan civilization, this book has all the appeal of a research journal:

- Instead of reasonably coherent and systematic top-down treatise of the Mayan civilization, we get "lumps" of lengthy and excruciatingly boring discussions of some specific detail or event in Mayan history, what evidence there is for it, and how it is supported by the graphics discovered.

- The book is choke-full of very well
Nov 29, 2014 Nicole rated it liked it
Shelves: history
This book wasn't really what I was looking for. I looked all over Amazon for a book on the history of the Maya that was not a children's book and not also about Aztec and Inca. There aren't that many books like that out there, unfortunately. Anyway, I chose this book because of the reviews and it had the best rating. I mean, it is a good book about the history of the Maya cities, but there wasn't much about the daily life of the ancient Maya. Maybe if I had paid more attention to the reviews I w ...more
Mike Steinborn
Dec 15, 2014 Mike Steinborn rated it liked it
This is a book written by a couple of field researchers and academics in the field of archaeology, so it's not easy reading! However, the authors made a much appreciated attempt to include a fictional prose section in each chapter, incorporating their findings into a story that depicts people, things, and events as they might have appeared at the time. But unless you have a strong interest in history, and especially in the history of the ancient Maya, you will find yourself skimming the heavier ...more
Oliver Bogler
Aug 22, 2015 Oliver Bogler rated it it was amazing
An outstanding book which tells the captivating stories of several Mayan city states, illustrating different phases in the history of this very interesting and complex civilization. In my mind this book is comparable to Tuchman's classic "A Distant Mirror" in its ability to bring a period to life. There is so much still to learn about the Maya, but this book is a great introduction and at the same time makes it clear how we learn and reconstruct history from what is sometimes a scarce record. Hi ...more
Jul 15, 2009 Angie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
This was a landmark book when it was published detailing the history of the Maya world based off the newly translated hieroglyphs. Linda Schele was the epigrapher of the Maya world up until her death and her work, including this one, made landmark strides in the field. This is a must read for those just getting into the Maya region and wanting to know the specifics of their history during the Classic period.
Edgar Olegario R.P.
Sep 09, 2007 Edgar Olegario R.P. rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Yes
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.
Don Evans
Oct 19, 2016 Don Evans rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Read every word for 212 pages and skimmed through the rest. Reads like a research journal, and is way too focused on the archeological remains for my taste. Would have enjoyed much more narrative fiction and/or information about Mayan traditions and rituals. Well researched for sure, but not for the casual reader. And as a 6th grade teacher who teaches the Maya civilization, this did not turn out giving me much new information that I can bring back to my students.
Mar 16, 2008 Addie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Ralph-Michael Chiaia
Nov 03, 2013 Ralph-Michael Chiaia rated it it was amazing
Shelves: mayan
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.
Jul 12, 2011 Jeffrey rated it it was amazing
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.
Tom Oman
Jul 06, 2015 Tom Oman rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Although I'm sure there is a more recent book with more insight, this book gives an incredible overview of how rich the world of the Maya was. Simply an amazing culture and civilization, and it is described beautifully in this book.
Jeb Card
Sep 08, 2007 Jeb Card rated it really liked it
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.
Wayne Swanson
Dec 08, 2013 Wayne Swanson rated it did not like it
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.
Doug Matthews
Feb 13, 2013 Doug Matthews rated it it was amazing
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.
Jack althouse
Aug 17, 2009 Jack althouse rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Bevan Mcguiness
Nov 14, 2011 Bevan Mcguiness rated it really liked it
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.
Sep 20, 2009 Kevin rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Ron Banister
Dec 22, 2012 Ron Banister rated it liked it
Fascinating read....
I read the first hundred pages or so during my trip to Cancun and Chichen Itza. It was great background about the ancient Maya.
Andrew Ragland
Mar 24, 2012 Andrew Ragland rated it really liked it
Shelves: gaming-source
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.
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