Patron Gods and Patron Lords

The Semiotics of Classic Maya Community Cults

by Joanne P. Baron

Hardcover Price $52.00
Paperback Price $28.95
Ebook Price $23.00
30-day ebook rental price $11.50

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"A well-written and profoundly argued academic work. . . . Her study including archaeological, textual, and visual material is a model for future research."

—Christian Prager, Universität Bonn

"A compelling interpretation of the workings of ancient Maya polities . . . an especially important contribution."

—Robert Preucel, Brown University

“This well-written and accessible book—recommended reading for students and scholars of Maya
archaeology—goes a long way toward addressing unanswered questions about author-
ity at Classic Maya courts.”
Hispanic American Historical Review

“Baron’s methodical approach is both careful and clear and provides an excellent example of the benefits of semiotic analysis in archaeology. . . . A compelling example of the relationships that patron Maya lords had with the patron gods of their people.”
Reading Religion


In the first comprehensive treatment of Classic Maya patron deity veneration, Joanne P. Baron demonstrates the central importance of patron deity cults in political relationships between both rulers and their subjects and among different Maya kingdoms. Weaving together evidence from inscriptions, images, and artifacts, Patron Gods and Patron Lords provides new insights into how the Classic Maya polity was organized and maintained.

Using semiotic theory, Baron draws on three bodies of evidence: ethnographies and manuscripts from Postclassic, Colonial, and modern Maya communities that connect patron saints to pre-Columbian patron gods; hieroglyphic texts from the Classic period that discuss patron deity veneration; and excavations from four patron deity temples at the site of La Corona, Guatemala. She shows how the Classic Maya used patron deity effigies, temples, and acts of devotion to negotiate group membership, social entitlements, and obligations between individuals and communities. She also explores the wider role of these processes in politics, arguing that rituals and discourses related to patron deities ultimately formulated Maya rulership as a locally oriented institution, which limited the ability of powerful kingdoms to create wider religious communities.

Applying a new theoretical approach for the archaeological study of ideology and power dynamics, Patron Gods and Patron Lords reveals an overlooked aspect of the belief system of Maya communities.


Joanne P. Baron is assistant professor of global social sciences in the Bard High School Early Colleges, a member of the history faculty at BHSEC Newark, and a consulting scholar at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology. Her research, which has been funded by the Wenner-Gren Foundation, the National Geographic Society, and others, investigates ancient Maya politics. She is the director of the La Florida Archaeology Project, based in northwestern Guatemala.

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  • Hardcover Price: $52.00
  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-60732-517-8
  • Paperback Price: $28.95
  • Paperback ISBN: 978-1-64642-004-9
  • Ebook Price: $23.00
  • 30-day ebook rental price: $11.50
  • EISBN: 978-1-60732-518-5
  • Publication Month: December
  • Publication Year: 2016
  • Pages: 244
  • Illustrations: 34 black and white illustrations
  • Discount Type: Short
  • Author: by Joanne P. Baron
  • ECommerce Code: 978-1-60732-517-8
  • Get Permissions: Get Permission

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