The purpose of this thesis is to document the changes in archaeological origin narratives concerning the lowland Preclassic Maya. This was accomplished by tracking the changes in four major narratives over several decades. These narratives include Herbert J. Spinden's Ancient Civilizations of Mexico and Central America; The Ancient Maya written by Sylvanus G. Morley, with additional editors, George Brainerd, Robert J. Sharer, and Loa Traxler; Michael D. Coe's The Maya, and Richard E.W. Adams's Prehistoric Mesoamerica. The specific parts of the narratives analyzed were the origins of agriculture, ceramic technology, writing, and monumental architecture. Changes in metaphorical language and illustrations that accompanied these texts were also analyzed. Shifts in narratives were tracked through the changes made to the texts in sequential editions, and were then compared between editions, and between books. The analysis of these narratives showed that the changes in the narratives resulted from a number of factors, including new technology, such as radiocarbon dating; new discoveries, in the form of artwork, sites, and artifacts; the decipherment of the Maya glyphs; and changes in the field of archaeology. The largest change that archaeological research has shown that Maya civilization is older than first imagined. Writing, ceramic technology, and monumental architecture are all now known be to centuries older than previously thought, all of which require a much different narrative than first told in 1841 by John Lloyd Stephens.



College and Department

Family, Home, and Social Sciences; Anthropology



Date Submitted


Document Type





Preclassic, Maya, Lowland, Chronology, Architecture, Origins, Writing

Included in

Anthropology Commons