Late Classic
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The Apogee of Coba and Chichen Itza


Late Classic/Terminal Classic (Chun-Yaah ceramic complex, A.D. 600-1000)

            At the end of the Early Classic dramatic changes began across the peninsula and at Muyil. During the Late Classic, Muyil, Xelha, and Coba no longer received ceramics from Belize. This period anticipates the abandon­ment of Peten sites at the time when Puuc sites are rapidly developing.

            Muyil had a long history of ceramic associations with Belize. In the Late Formative and Protoclassic, both Barton Ramie and Muyil had Aguacate Orange, Caribal Red, and Polvero Black ceramics, and both had sherds from the Sierra ceramic group (see Appendix 4). Continuing into the Early Classic, both sites have sherds of Balanza Black and Molino Black. At the time of the Early Classic to Late Classic transition, both sites have sherds of Saxche Orange Polychrome, Mangrove Dark Coffee, Teakettle Bank Black, and Yuhactal Black-on-Red. Muyil has two sherds of Petkanche Orange Polychrome found at Altun Ha in Belize. At the end of the Early Classic, a significant change occurred.

            After the early Late Classic and extending to the start of the Late Postclassic, a span of approximately 500 years, there are no shared ceramic types between Muyil and Barton Ramie.  Types common at Muyil, Coba and Xelha, such as Cetelac Fiber-tempered, are not reported for sites in the south. This absence of Belize ceramics begins just as slate ceramics from the west begin to predominate at the east coast sites and Coba. It is not until the appearance of Late Postclassic Chen Mul Modeled effigy censers that Belize and Muyil are once again linked by similar ceramics.

            At the time Muna Slate becomes predominant among the slipped wares at Muyil, slipped wares from Belize disappear. Muyil's interactions are overwhelmingly related to the Puuc region, based on the presence of Muna and Ticul group ceramics. This is roughly concurrent with the collapse of sites in the Peten during the ninth century ( to (Morley et al. 1983:140). Although the prior connections with Belize disappear in favor of ties to the Puuc, Robles shows that the eastern portion of the peninsula is not a mirror image of the western (Puuc) half. In support he says: Vista Alegre Striated tecomates are common in the east, but not the west; Muna Slate type ceramics are more brown in the east and more gray in the west; in the Ticul group, new varieties have been established for the brown east-coast versions of the gray western varieties (Ticul Thin-slate: Xelha Variety and Tabi Gouge-incised:Muyil Variety in the east); inverted-Z form rims; and the absence of Balancan Fine Orange in the east (Robles 1990:258-260). In contrast, Ringle and Bey report that at Ek Balam Muna Slate could not be divided on the basis of color. "[Muna Slate] followed an unbroken continuum, ranging in paste and surface color from gray through dark pink." (Ringle and Bey 1988:42).

            Robles, continuing the earlier discussion, also notes that Coba is no longer manufacturing polychromes, such as Tituc Orange Polychrome, but is importing them from the Rio Bec area (Robles 1990:258-260). Furthermore, Vista Alegre Striated ceramics, which not only are widespread across the Muyil site but also are found at all Classic period east coast sites, are not found at Yaxuna or to the west (Robles 1990:260). The northern Maya lowlands are bound together by the widespread distribution of Muna Slate ceramics but, in some cases, show a marked regionality.

            During the Early Classic and especially the Late Classic, the development of Coba far overshadowed all other sites in the region. During this period, ceramic evidence shows Muyil was wholly intertwined with the activities at Coba, albeit as a quite junior associate at less than one percent of Coba's size.

            Perhaps the shared prosperity of Muyil due to its participation in Coba's economic success during the Late Classic made possible the construction and dedication of Structure 9K‑1‑2d as well as its later elaboration by being enclosed in a new platform which then supported Structure 9K‑1‑1st. These events were marked by a construction cache (Cache 2) with a classic polychrome dish and by a later intrusive dedicatory cache (Cache 1) containing a plate-covered Sacalum Black-on-slate olla under the floor of the plaza in front of Temple 8.

            In the Terminal Classic, Muyil continues to have a very high proportion of Vista Alegre Striated ceramics accompanied by Muna Slate and Ticul Thin-slate ceramics. During this era, however, Dzitas Slate ceramics arrive for the first time. As will be discussed in more detail below, the Muyil record establishes that Muna ceramics appear first and that Dzitas Slate appears later than, but is then concurrent with, Muna Slate. We have noted the contrast between Coba and Muyil on the one hand, which have no accompanying Chichen architectural elements and Xelha, on the other hand, with its Chichen-style murals and architectural elements. Apparently the proportion of Chichen Itza ceramics was never very great at Muyil, Xelha, or Coba, although we may infer a seaborne trade involving Chichen ceramics. The ceramic effects of the coastal trade of Chichen Itza from Isla Cerritos on the north coast appear quite strongly at Cozumel. While this trade may have disrupted the trade of Coba through its own ports along the east coast, it ultimately was not sustainable and Itzá power also collapsed, probably in the eleventh century.


© Copyright 2000-2005 Walter R. T. Witschey   Page last updated Wednesday, April 02, 2008