||Maya archaeology has long contemplated the political organization of Classic Maya society (AD 200-900). Great strides have been made in our understanding of both the large centers that dominated the Maya area in the Classic period and the smaller settlements Maya rulers claimed to have dominated. However, the internal workings of Classic period polities—and the extent to which they were integrated at all—remain the subject of intense debate. Some propose large centralized and complexly integrated polities while others suggest that that political power was largely circumscribed by kin-based prerogatives over labor and resources.
The view from Copan, the Classic Maya world’s southeasternmost polity, proves no less incongruent. Nevertheless, absent from models of Copan’s political organization is any acknowledgement of the Copan region’s multi-ethnic composition. This deficiency is curious given that the southeastern Maya area has long been recognized as a borderland between the Maya Ch’olan speakers to the north and west (Guatemala and Belize) and the Lenca region to the south and east (central Honduras, and eastern El Salvador).
In this paper, we focus on the mechanisms of polity integration in the mutli-ethnic environment of Copan’s Classic period polity. We examine political interaction among secondary centers in the Classic period Maya kingdom of Copan, with an emphasis on the Late Classic centers in the El Paraíso Valley, Department of Copan, Honduras. In so doing, we develop a new model for Copan’s Classic period polity that can prove useful to explain developments elsewhere in the Classic period Maya lowlands.