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Based on archaeological evidence from the Cuyumapa Valley in Honduras, including the presence of multiple ballcourts, this paper argues that archaeologists need to pay more attention to Carole Crumley's concept of heterarchy when considering social relations, political relations, and power in ancient societies such as those of the Maya and their neighbors in Mesoamerica. We redefine complexity to include less centralized but regionally heterogeneous societies in which social and political relations are not all centralized into a single hierarchical structure. The Cuyumapa Valley falls in the zone traditionally described as the southeastern edge or periphery of Mesoamerica. Yet our research shows that the region was not a less complex periphery reacting to stimuli from neighboring Maya societies but a region with its own specific developmental history.


This is a revised and updated version of a conference paper by Hendon and Joyce, Questioning "Complexity" and "Periphery": Archaeology in Yoro, Honduras, presented at the 58th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, in St. Louis, MO, in 1993. This is also a pre-publication version of a chapter to appear in Archaeological Research in Honduras: Understanding Ancient Lifeways in the Intermediate Area, edited by Terence L. Winemiller and Virginia Ochoa-Winemiller. University of Alabama Press.