The chosen article discusses the issue of inequality during the era of Classic Maya (250-800 CE). The detailed discussion may reveal much about civilization’s political organization and power distribution. Thus, it is useful to discuss how predecessors of modern American countries lived together and how centuries after changed the overall perception of social justice. The article by Thompson et al. (2021) showed how collected materials from Ancient times might be efficiently used for conducting modern-style research.
The authors’ central premise was that there is a high level of inequality across the Maya Lowlands. The major indicator used was the Gini coefficient, a standard statistical tool for measuring inequality. Thompson et al. (2021) brilliantly found the solution to calculate it: they took settlement data in regions of Maya residences and perceived the bigger house as a signifier of higher wealth. The reason is that archeologists indeed argue that a big house is a predictor of wealth. As Thompson et al. (2021) note: “the size of residential architecture is an ideal indicator of wealth differentials due to the differences in labor needed to construct residential platforms of varying size” (p. 5). After that, the Gini coefficient of Maya was compared with similar civilizations in Paleo-America.
As a result, Gini showed significant inequality but indicated some peculiarities that may be useful for historians. The location of big houses near trade routes and trading centers correlated with a higher degree of inequality because these families acted as brokers. In addition, wealthy principals attracted sub-principals to organize closed rich networks by having access to exotic and valued goods. The text is full of images showing how these networks were formed and why some groups were richer than others.
To sum up, the research used a thought-provoking methodology to discuss the reasons for inequality and regions of Maya settlement. Although the data collection and analysis methodology may seem unclear for readers who are not skilled in statistical methods, the discussion section clearly explained the meaning of determining casualties. This article can be a great addition to learning how the political organization of ancient Paleo-American civilizations was formed.
The analyzed article is generally significant for the academic community. Despite the fact that the thesis of inequality in the Mayan civilization is not too unique, the methods used by the authors deserve special attention. First, the quantity and quality of the sources used to collect the data are astounding. The authors list countless organizations that provided data on the structure and area of Mayan houses. In addition to the Gini calculation, the authors used networks and centrality analysis and correlation analysis. It helped to discuss the organization of Mayan households in more detail and with higher clarity of the argument. Finally, authors interestingly linked their arguments with examples of Mayan artworks, as is made on page 11.
In general, the article seems to be successful, although the volume of work may be inconsistent with the level of findings’ innovation. The reason is that it is obvious that the authors spent many days collecting and organizing data. At the same time, the final text of “Discussion” is based on the only argument of resource monopolization. Nevertheless, it should be noted that academic articles are not intended to give broad answers to broad questions. It is usually the purpose of historical books to present a higher scope. As for articles, the narrow thesis and answers are appropriate and legitimate.
Thompson, A. E., Feinman, G. M., Lemly, M., & Prufer, K. M. (2021). Inequality, networks, and the financing of Classic Maya political power. Journal of Archaeological Science, 133, 1-15.