These three books are aimed at three different audiences who share an interest in the Maya. The first is written for the sophisticated traveller, the second for those who enjoy wide-open speculation on the nature of ancient Mayan social organization, and the third is a major contribution to the serious scholar on the Maya and in the dynamics of shifting ethnic boundaries.
Bruce Hunter’s Guide to Ancient Maya Ruins is a well-written, well organized and competent work designed to make the major Mayan archaeological sites meaningful to the more sophisticated traveller. The maps and illustrations are excellent and fit in meaningfully with the text. Hunter is most qualified to present this tour of the Maya past. He is a lecturer in archaeology at the Museum of Natural History in New York and for two decades has guided an annual field trip in Meso-America. The last few pages of the book contain concise advice on routes to the sites as well as suggestions on clothing and guide services. Though not intended as such, this volume will also give pleasure to the armchair traveller and serve as a useful introduction to the Maya for the serious scholar.
Bennett’s Maya Epic flies high above objective evidence to produce some imaginative interpretations of Mayan history. Bennett is an “engineer-geologist” who became interested in early American civilizations while practicing his profession in Latin America. The author presents two novel theories which rest on slim evidence and a powerful imagination. First, he postulates that the Olmec were in fact the earliest Maya. Upon this base, he then postulates a separate ethnic identity for the lower and ruling classes of all later Maya.
Richard Thompson’s Winds of Tomorrow, on the other hand, is a study of contemporary ethnic boundaries in a Mayan community and rests on solid objective evidence and a most scientific analysis. The author presents a valuable study of the dynamics involved in maintaining ethnic boundaries while allowing individuals to change their ethnic identities in the community of Ticul. In both a synchronic and diachronic analysis, Thompson traces the evolution of the earlier Maya-Hispanic division of society to the contemporary status hierarchy of the subordinate Mestizo (Maya Indian based) and the Hispanic dominant group. This excellent study will long serve as a model for future research on ethnicity.