Synopses & 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 beginning of its institution and the first great pyramid builders two thousand years ago to the decline of Maya civilization and its destruction by the Spanish. Here the great historic rulers of pre-Columbian civilization come to life again with the decipherment of their writing. At its height, Maya civilization flourished under great kings like Shield-Jaguar, who ruled for more than sixty years, expanding his kingdom and building some of the most impressive works of architecture in the ancient world. Long placed on a mist-shrouded pedestal as austere, peaceful stargazers, the Maya elites are now known to have been the rulers of populous, aggressive city-states.
Hailed as "a Rosetta stone of Maya civilization" (Brian M. Fagan, author of People of the Earth), A Forest of Kings is "a must for interested readers," says Evon Vogt, professor of anthropology at Harvard University.
This is an account of Maya history based on the deciphering of hieroglyphic inscriptions. Because the epigraphic record is too limited to allow a comprehensive reconstruction of Maya history, Schele and Freidel have arranged their story by sites (Palenque, Copan, Yaxchilan) and regions (the central Peten, northern Yucatan) within the Maya sphere.
The mystique of the pre-Columbian Maya has prompted much speculation about the nature of this sophisticated people. With the breaking of their elaborate hieroglyphic code, Schele and Freidel, Mayan scholars of note, provide a new look at the Maya. Structured on sound scholarly principles, their presentation abounds in notes, references, indexes, and chronologies with profuse line-drawings of temple and other inscriptions. They devote a chapter to each of the major Mayan city-states. What makes this volume more accessible and of greater impact than the average scholarly study are the frequent vignettes of great events, kingly acts, etc., told dramatically, in a fictive but plausible style that allows the ancient Maya at last to speak for themselves. Recommended for informed laypersons, as well as specialist and young adult readers.
Includes bibliographical references (p. -532) and index.
About the Author
David Friedel and Linda Schele are the authors of A Forest of Kings(Quill, 1991). David Friedel has been a Maya archaeologist for more than twenty years and is a professor at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. A well-known authority on Maya writing and art, Linda Schele is the John D. Murchinson Regents Professor in Art at the University of Texas in Austin. Joy Parker has taught writing workshops at Columbia University and New York University. She currently lives in Los Angeles.