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Middle PreClassic


Middle Preclassic (1000 – 300 B.C.)

altThe Middle Preclassic period was a time of rapid expansion across the Maya lowlands.  
Following the establishment of the first agricultural settlements, many new areas were colonized and villages grew in size and number.  With these changes in population we begin to witness the first indications of social and political complexity and increasing interaction with distant centers in the Maya region, and with the Olmecs and other Mesoamerican cultures.

Maya communities of the Middle Preclassic period were likely organized into chiefdoms.  These chiefdoms were characterized by distinctions in social, political and economic status. Farmers comprised the largest segment of the population while other specialists produced goods for local consumption and for trade with other distant areas.  Rulership of Middle Preclassic communities lay in the hands of chiefs.  Their power was primarily based on kinship and their social status was determined by heredity.  In other words, rulers derived their power from family and community support, from perceived supernatural sanctions and their control of the economy.  Supernatural support was inherited from the gods and from deified ancestors.  Rulers maintained authority by distributing surpluses and by maintaining allegiance of other lineages through sponsoring key rituals and feasts and by bestowing favors and gifts that were collected from tribute.

Important Middle Preclassic sites include Cahal Pech, Lamanai, Cuello, Santa Rita, Colha, and Blackman Eddy in Belize.  In the Peten, sites such as Tikal, Uaxactun, Nakbe, Seibal and Altar de Sacrificios were also developing into important centers at this time.