Maya Ruins in Belize Show Maya Wealth Inequality

March 29, 2021

Archaeologists have studied remains of 180 homes in the Maya site of Uxbenká and 93 homes in the smaller nearby city of Ix Kuku’il, both dated from roughly 250 to 900 AD.

The researchers gauged wealth inequality based on the mix of large and smaller homes, along with the size and nature of the structures.

Wealth inequality begins with food production. The surplus is commanded by a few individuals. They coerce others to provide labor and goods.

The researchers compared their findings to other studies of homes in  ancient cities in Mesoamerica, In Mexico’s Oaxaca Valley, where more collective forms of governance existed, there was less disparity in homes.

Teotihuacan in central Mexico, had lesser degrees of inequality as measured by domestic space than did the Classic Maya sites despite the fact Teotihuacan had a population of 200,00.

Uxbenká and Ix Kuku’il, about 25 miles (40 km) from the Caribbean coast, boasted monumental architecture including temples about 30 feet (10 meters) tall. The foundations of the small houses often measured roughly 13 by 20 feet (4 by 6 meters) and the large ones reached approximately 40 by 66 feet (12 by 20 meters).

The larger ones had more elaborate architecture and imported and luxury goods including jade, marine shell, personal adornments and the volcanic glass called obsidian, used for blades and other purposes.

Classic Maya society featured social groups including royal leadership, nobles, merchants, artisans and crafts people, and a larger number of farmers and laborers. But the Maya had a more despotic system than those in the same time period in the rest of Mesoamerica. has the report here: