Early Maya E-Groups, Solar Calendars, and the Role of Astronomy in the Rise of Lowland Urbanism

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organized by David Freidel (Washington University in St. Louis) and Jerry Sabloff (Santa Fe Institute)


The first SFI working group on this subject held in August of 2012 sustained and qualified several important patterns in evidence and interpretation that have encouraged the participants to follow through with written papers and a second SFI weekend of intense verbal exchange in August of 2013.

Main empirical points of consensus include the following: 1) E Groups are among the earliest, if not the earliest, manifestation of civic-religious public architecture in the Maya lowlands; 2) E Groups are concentrated in the core area of the lowlands but are also found in a salient into Belize to the east and another into Yucatan to the north and 3) E Groups are a distinctive and original feature of lowland Maya culture and society. Main points of interpretation include the following:

1) the group generally sees evidence that E Groups are from the outset associated with solar observation and perforce calendar keeping;

2) all participants agree that E Groups and their plazas are from the outset public gathering places.

Goals of this effort are a coherent series of on-line publications on the SFI website and hopefully an edited published book. These goals are warranted by a convergence of new field research results and an emerging paradigmatic framework for the origins of lowland Maya civilization focused on the E Group phenomenon as a key feature of lowland Maya community organization and urbanism in its geographic heartland.