Abstract: Research in 1970 vaulted Becán to prominence on the landscape of great Maya centers. Mapping, excavation, and ceramic stratigraphy revealed that its enigmatic earthwork, first recorded archaeologically in 1934, was a fortification built at the end of the Preclassic period. Large-scale warfare thus unexpectedly turned out to have very deep roots in the Maya lowlands. The site's wider implications remained obscure, however, in the absence of dates and other inscriptions. The ever-increasing dependence on historical and iconographic information in our narratives, along with the invisibility of its Preclassic buildings and plazas, unfortunately marginalized Becán. Some colleagues even claimed that we have misinterpreted both the nature of the earthworks (not fortifications) and their dating (not Preclassic). We rehabilitate Becán by dispelling these claims and by showing that standard archaeological evidence, contextualized in what we know today, has much to say about Becán's role in lowland culture history. We identify intervals of crisis when the earthwork remained useful long after it was originally built, especially during the great hegemonic struggles of the Snake and Tikal dynasties, and introduce new ceramic and lithic data about Becán's settlement history and political entanglements. Our most important message is that inscriptions and iconography, for all their dramatic chronological detail and historical agency, must always be complemented by standard fieldwork.
Keywords: Becn / buildings / great / ceramic / claimed / Maya / history / Preclassic / earthwork / inscriptions
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