The Olmec Culture

PROMPT 1 When we study the Olmec culture and Classic Period Maya culture, we see again that scholars emphasize the role of ritual in the emergence of elites (or “rulers”) in these communities. Fox (1996) and Lucero (2003) describe different kinds of rituals, and argue that these rituals were pivotal to the development and maintenance of the Classic Maya kingdoms. Each of the authors describe relationships between household (or small-scale) rituals and grandiose public rituals. Identify two ways that public ritualized behavior performed by elites connect with common people’s daily lives. (1) How do those connections make the public rituals more useful for the elites? (2) How do the connections make the rituals more useful for the commoners? You need to combine two examples. One example must be from the Classic Maya, while the second can be from any culture we’ve studied, or from a modern culture. For example: Every four years in the United States, a ritual occurs in which politicians who wish to become President appear on stage next to each other in order to repeat their campaign slogans in such a way that it is called “a debate.” For many decades that performance had great social and political power because it was familiar to citizens who had been required to take part in structured debates in their schools. Citizens felt that they understood the “rules of the game” and could sympathize with the candidates. The ritual both humanized the politicians and showed that they understood issues of great complexity. In more recent years, the presidential debates have become less meaningful (except as a way for candidates to be caught in poor dramatic performances) in part because students in the United States education system rarely take part in debates, and it is no longer a part of their young lives.

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