Western scholars and popular writers have long demonstrated a fascination with the Lacandon Maya of the Chiapas lowlands, an interest sparked early on by explorer Desiré Charnay’s 1887 adventure book, The Ancient Cities of the New World, and Alfred M. Tozzer’s 1907 ethnography, A Comparative Study of the Mayas and the Lacandones. Here Joel W. Palka presents a major new synthesis that both brings together more than a century of writing about the Lacandon and contributes new historical-archaeological findings.

Palka observes that widespread public fascination with the Lacandon developed following the 1947 announcement of the discovery of the now-famous Classic-period Maya polychrome murals at Bonampak, in the tropical forests of Chiapas. Accompanying the first reports of this finding were the expedition’s published photographs of the Lacandon, with both sexes displaying long hair and wearing non-Western dress, posed alongside the murals, ruined...

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