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The Maya (Ancient Peoples & Places)

3.88  ·  Rating details ·  784 Ratings  ·  48 Reviews
Paperback, 7th, 272 pages
Published March 30th 2005 by Thames & Hudson (first published 1966)
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Aug 14, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
I read this book because the Maya have always been an interest of mine as have many other periods of history. I also read this book as reference material for a book I am writing.

Michael Coe writes a generally faced paced and easy to read text that may well be better suited to a high school history lesson than a read for interest's sake. Primarily he covers off the movements of the Mayan tribes around Mesoamerica and the different periods they belong to. He does this well and makes clear points.

Μια ιδανικη εισαγωγη για οσους θελουν να γνωρισουν τον μεγαλυτερο αρχαιο πολιτισμου του Νεοτερου Κοσμου, τους μυστηριωδεις Μαγια.
Erik Graff
Oct 04, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  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 an account of that see his Breaking the Mayan Code.
Sarah -
My Blog: The Book Nook --->

It's always a bummer when I think I am really interested in a topic and then after one book about said topic, I am completely unsure if my interest is waning or if the writing is just that dry/dull/etc.

In this case, I think it is that the writing is just that dry and I felt like I was reading a textbook. Now, before you say, "But it's non-fiction!" I should point out that I read non-fiction almost exclusively these days and h
M.G. Mason
Aug 08, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Bob Nichols
Coe gives a good overview of the Mayans. Though he refers to the Mayans as one ethnic group, the book describes their great diversity, as might be expected from a people who lived across Guatemala, Belize, central Mexico, and the Yucatan. Coe divides Mayan history into several periods, beginning with the Archaic (3,000-1,000 BCE) and ending with the post-Classic (A.D. 925-1500) with the Spanish invasion and conquest, the effect of which has been the obliteration (or incorporation) of Mayan cultu ...more
Apr 22, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: maya
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
Apr 04, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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.
Mar 18, 2011 rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction, ru, kindle
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.
Nov 07, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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
Dec 30, 2009 rated it it was amazing
No they do not believe in a 2012 doomsday lol!
Loran (Algonquiins)
The Maya was a textbook I read for my Archaeology of Mexico class and I actually read the entire thing! (I am very proud of this... haha) I thought that the book was informative and also simple enough where a student or a leisure reader could pick it up and have no trouble getting into it. The book was full of beautiful pictures, some full-color and was also very comprehensive in its subject matter. Coe deftly takes you through the entirety of the Maya Empire and I can honestly say I learned a l ...more
Aug 22, 2012 rated it liked it
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
Aug 27, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
*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
Janel Cox
Dec 20, 2016 rated it really liked it
Great reference book. It needs to be read several times and perhaps not in chronological order to try to assimilate the culture. In a nerd like fashion, I marked maps with Orange tabs, other topics with other colors
Scott Forbes
Apr 03, 2013 rated it did not like it
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
Feb 02, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
Michael Coe is clearly very knowledgeable about the subject matter, which is great because I struggled to find much written about this topic at all. He covers everything from geography and topography to hieroglyphics to archaeology, and also breaks down the chronology of Mayan civilization.

Unfortunately, although comprehensive, this is a pretty dry textbook read - thank God for the pictures/maps to break up the text and illustrate what Coe was talking about. This isn't wholly Coe's fault, but s
April Brown
Jul 07, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: history, reference
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
Aug 09, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: archaeology
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
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
Nov 13, 2012 rated it liked it
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
Feb 02, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2009
Extremely dense - think of this as a textbook - but apparently the most comprehensive collection of information about the Maya. So says Jared Diamond, who says so in the "Further Reading" section of Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed. I learned a lot but it was slow going.

Fun trivia: you know that 2012 bs? (ETA: we've all forgotten this but there were some nutjobs who thought the world was going to end in 2012.) It's this guy's fault. In an earlier edition of this book, he idly po
Sep 28, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: anthro, reference
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
Aug 28, 2016 rated it it was ok
I am a former archaeologist and not a lay person reviewing this book. I found this to be poorly written with vague ideas with little detail. The author consistently uses pretentious language and descriptions that are not accessible and leave the reader feeling unfulfilled and with a minimal gain in knowledge. Mr. Coe makes a habit of stating that we cannot possibly guess what something means instead of listing the prevalent theories. The supplemental figures and maps were not very helpful and se ...more
Kristen Giessler
Jan 05, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Jan 03, 2016 rated it really liked it
I'm reading Edition 9 of this book, which was published last year. I think it's good! theres a few parts where concepts and um terms used by archaeologists aren't really explained immediately and cause its academic the frst few chapter are pretty textbooky. also it has good photographs but maybe not enough? they're used in reference to the text but theres a lot of paragraphs explaining important details of some Mayan site or another with no photographs to accompany it (like with the cisterns in ...more
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.
Jun 08, 2009 rated it really liked it
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.
Feb 04, 2010 rated it it was ok
Shelves: books-for-school
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.
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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
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