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A forest of kings : the untold story of the…
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A forest of kings : the untold story of the ancient Maya (original 1990; edition 1990)

by Linda Schele

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616527,166 (3.71)19
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.… (more)
Member:jamzl
Title:A forest of kings : the untold story of the ancient Maya
Authors:Linda Schele
Info:New York: Morrow, c1990. 542 p., [16] p. of plates : ill. (some col.) ; 26 cm. 1st ed
Collections:Your library
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Tags:maya, archaeology, prehistory

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A Forest of Kings: The Untold Story of the Ancient Maya by Linda Schele (Author) (1990)

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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. Of course, 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 great effort to reduce technical details to a minimum and put the bulk of their evidence into the aforementioned appendices and footnotes.

I think they did too good of a job there. Every chapter has at least one or two vignettes of hypothetical situations drawn from the archaeological and linguistic record which makes for interesting reading but they are the product of so much well-imagined guesswork that I can't suppress my skepticism even after I've flipped to the back to read the notes for that page.

The book is out of date, with almost all of the chapters referencing ongoing excavations and translation of findings, but the picture they present seemed fair-minded and, prose embellishments aside, firmly based on the evidence available to them and many of the illustrations are side-by-side simple translations of Mayan writing into English.

Reading this I understood why my professors had not assigned much reading on the history of the Maya, focusing on ecological impact instead, because there is, quite simply, a lot of one-sided historical data. With much of it, it is almost impossible to find a middle ground. There is this ~400 page treatment, and statements such as: "various small monarchic city-states exist in a state of near-constant warfare for 1000 years." A gross over-simplification, but if you want to get beyond that you're going to need to sit down and read 'A Forest of Kings', or a book of similar length. ( )
  ManWithAnAgenda | Feb 18, 2019 |
The untold Story of the Ancient Maya
  jhawn | Jul 31, 2017 |
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. ( )
  tarliman.joppos | Aug 20, 2013 |
The purpose of this book, written by scholars on the subject, Linda Schele and David Freidl, appears to be twofold. Firstly, to reveal or rather decode the hieroglyphs, of what they believe, are the stories left behind by kings and nobles detailing their dynastic rule and conquests throughout Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula. Secondly, in using this information the author’s attempt to reconstruct/fictionalize scenarios of what may have taken place. Certainly, this imagery is helpful in attempting to understand the workings of the ancient Maya yet the skeptic in me wonders just how much of what the author’s envision is accurate.
A Forest of Kings has left this reader swimming, with her head barely above water, in a cenote of dates, names, conquests, conjecture, assumptions and speculation , sometimes asking more questions than there are answers. There is a life preserver, however, If anything, this book has me wanting to read more, question more and try to understand more of these silent warriors.

Would I recommend it…………….. Yes, but not to everyone. One really must have some knowledge and interest in the Mayan culture to get any enjoyment from this book. If you are a beginner in this area I would recommend Stephens and Catherwood’s Incidents of Travel in Yucatan for an interesting overview. ( )
5 vote Carmenere | May 31, 2011 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Schele, LindaAuthorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Friedel, Davidmain authorall editionsconfirmed
Kerr, JustinPhotographersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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This book is dedicated to Floyd Lounsbury and Gordon Willey
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Conservo ancora un ricordo nitido della prima volta che ho percorso il viale ricoperto di ghiaia che conduce alle rovine di Palenque.
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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.

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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.
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