chapter  Chapter One
5 Pages


WithTraci Ardren, Scott R. Hutson

The word “Maya” almost never appears in colonial documents written in Spanish and it appears infrequently in colonial documents written in Yucatec Maya, the native language of northern Yucatan. The ancient Maya have had an oversized footprint in the imagination of the general public for nearly 200 years, going back to widely circulated books by John Lloyd Stephens and Frederick Catherwood. The word may derive from Mayapan, the toponym for the major Postclassic political capital located in the northwest corner of the contemporary Mexican state of YucatanThe ancient Maya also figure prominently in academic circles. Pan-Maya political movements exist, and an encompassing identity can be deployed strategically in specific situations such as the post-civil war reconciliation processes in Guatemala or in efforts to revive Maya language instruction. But even these movements rarely cross modern national boundaries. The chapter also presents an overview on the key concepts discussed in this book.