States and empires in ancient mesoamerica

Arlen F. Chase, Diane Z. Chase, Michael Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Scopus citations


Ancient Mesoamerican polities are an important source of data for considerations of state development, despite internal debate over their size and complexity. We review complex political units, usually referred to as states and empires, in ancient Mesoamerica and reach the following conclusions: these polities tended to be hegemonic, rather than territorial, in composition; they melded ritual and political action; and they utilized the ruler as a symbol of the body politic. We also note the apparently larger size of most Maya polities as compared to other Mesoamerican city-states. Besides reviewing the commonalities among ancient Mesoamerican states, we also highlight the variation among these polities and the need to consider historic and archaeological data contextually in making interpretations of political structure.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)175-182
Number of pages8
JournalAncient Mesoamerica
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2009

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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