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Royal Cities of the Ancient Maya
Royal Cities of the Ancient Maya
Author(s): Michael D. Coe
Photographs By: Barry Brukoff
Illustrations: 140 color and sepia illustrations; 1 map; and 2 gatefolds
Pages: 224
Trim Size: 11 x 9 1/8 in.
Format: Hardcover with French fold jacket
ISBN: 978-0-86565-284-2
Published Date: 10/01/12
Price: US $50.00 CAN $57.50
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Recognition for Royal Cities of the Ancient Maya:




Royal Cities of the Ancient Maya was selected for inclusion on the 2014 list of Outstanding Academic Titles selected by Choice: Current Reviews for Academic Libraries. This list is comprised of 663 resources chosen from more than 7,000 titles reviewed by Choice editors. Selected titles represent excellence in scholarship and presentation, significance to the field of study, and value as an important treatment of the subject.


Praise for Royal Cities of the Ancient Maya:

"Archaeologist Coe (emer., Yale) and photographer Brukoff present a masterpiece of nuanced archaeological and aesthetic observations born of a lifetime of study on the part of Coe, and a masterful visual lore spun from the eye and camera of Brukoff. Coe's majestic narrative both completes and is enhanced by the awesome imagery that required Brukoff's studied consideration of a subject matter whose environmental context and complexity pose a formidable challenge to even the most accomplished of artists and photographers. Summing up: Essential." —R. G. Mendoza of California State University for Choice

“This book takes us on a three-thousand-year journey through Maya history, from nascent agrarian communities to coastal shrines of Yucatán on the eve of the Spanish conquest. Along the way, we visit the major centers of ancient Maya civilization, and in each locale we are given a unique private tour of its remarkable art and architecture through Barry Brukoff’s masterly photographs. Our guide on this epic journey is Michael Coe, whose vivid account is informed by vast knowledge of Mesoamerican culture. Royal Cities of the Ancient Maya is an experience not to be missed.”—Professor Andrea Stone, Department of Art History, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

“A sumptuous presentation of all things Maya. The architecture, art, and history of this extraordinary people are covered in great detail, from the first farmers to the arrival of the Spaniards. During this long interval of some 3500 years, the Maya created one of the most distinctive of ancient civilizations, here wonderfully revealed by Michael Coe, a leading authority in the field, and the superb photographs of Barry Brukoff. Royal Cities of the Ancient Maya is a feast for the eye and the mind for the scholar and the general reader alike.”—Dr. David L. Webster, Professor of Anthropology, University of Pennsylvania

“Stunning photographs by Barry Brukoff illuminate insights and smart prose from Michael Coe, one of the most knowledgeable scholars of the ancient Maya, in Royal Cities of the Ancient Maya. For both general readers and specialists, this highly readable book offers wonderful surprises, along with the latest and most up-to-date interpretations. No bookshelf should be without it.”—Dr. Mary Miller, Dean of Yale College, Sterling Professor of Art, History of Art of the Ancient New World, author of The Art of Mesoamerica: From Olmec to Aztec

“This book is glorious. Panoramic in two senses, it offers masterful commentary by Michael Coe, doyen of Mayanist scholars, along with Barry Brukoff’s atmospheric photos, the next-best-thing to visiting the great Maya cities. Any reader will feel the immediate urge to board a plane, book in hand. If ruins can be brought to life, Coe and Brukoff have done so with this elegant volume.”—Dr. Stephen Houston, Dupee Family Professor of Social Sciences, Brown University

Royal Cities of the Ancient Maya with text by Michael D. Coe and photography by Barry Brukoff is the most fascinating and gorgeous book to land on my doorstep this year.”—A Traveler's Library

An outstanding and luminous work that will be enjoyed by anyone pursuing a greater understanding of Mayan history and culture.”—Library Journal

“Through a powerful alignment of text focused on essential history and a generous series of rich, atmospheric photographs, Coe and Brukoff have created a marriage of Mayan history and beauty that is just as much an education as it is eye candy.”—Highbrow magazine

“Yale University professor and Maya expert Michael D. Coe teams up with photographer Barry Brukoff to give a cogently presented and sumptuously illustrated tour of the elaborate cities the Maya built.”—Austin American-Statesman


Praise for Barry Brukoff’s photography:

“[T]hese photos . . . do undeniably have something special in them, something more beautiful and mysterious that is quite hard to define. Perhaps it is his sense of light, which is extraordinarily fine in both day and evening . . . so many of his photos feature both sun and shadow, always giving rise to the feeling that there is something wonderful half-hidden there in the dark. . . .”—Photo District News

“Attracted to the sacred sites of ancient civilization for the sense of spiritual integration that they give him, Barry Brukoff absorbs himself in these places—taking in the scene, and then photographing it with the aim of communicating his experience of heightened and energetic peace. A consummate photographer, Brukoff is equally at home in color and sepia. Spiritual awakening translates visually for Brukoff into an exquisite sense of beauty that in most of his images makes us want them to materialize so that we could dwell inside the scene. With light at the center of his aesthetic, varying degrees and forms of illumination propel Brukoff’s images beyond familiarity, drawing us into his subjective response. It matters less where he has taken us in space than what we feel when we are there.”—Michael Weinstein, Newcity Art, Chicago

“Award-winning photographer Barry Brukoff has been photographing ancient architecture for close to a half century. The dramatic passage of time reflected in vine-wrapped doors or moss-covered stairways evokes a broad range of response: a sense of loss, mystery, the transience of everything, of romantic conjecture on the nature of the builders, and awe at what was possible in the distant past that seems impossible today. Brukoff’s photos are both documents of place and poetic response to the passage of time.”—Douglas Dawson

“Countless thousands of cameras have preceded Brukoff's at Stonehenge, at Machu Picchu, in classical Greece, yet there is a particular personal voice in these photographs. There are also some great thematic compulsions in his work. Many of his photographs gravitate to the monuments (aesthetic, practical or spiritual) our species has created. In interpreting them, he seeks to direct our vision. He is, in fact, re-presenting them, since other artists have preceded him or even we ourselves have experienced these monuments directly. In doing so Brukoff selects themes we agree are important and seeks to remind us of their importance; they are images geared towards understanding.” (Morrie Camhi)

“Part of what makes Temples of Cambodia: The Heart of Angkor so appealing is its photographer’s long-term vision and commitment.”—The New York Times

Temples of Cambodia: The Heart of Angkor is a magnificent journey through the remnants of the least-known of the great world civilizations. . . . Though they take ruins as their subject, Mr. Brukoff’s images capture the most timeless elements of Khmer ingenuity. Choosing a perspective above that makes the colonnades of Bayon, an Angkor temple, seem endless, he shows the plan behind the beauty.”—The Wall Street Journal

“Barry Brukoff’s photographs of ancient Asian temples let you visit from your armchair—no machetes needed.”—Reader’s Digest

“[Temples of Cambodia] explores the history of the huge complex of temples built over five centuries by the Khmer, one of the world’s longest-lived cultures. These remarkable structures’ engineering and embellishment trace the progress of an empire; Brukoff’s sensitive photos, taken over almost 50 years, include temples since destroyed.”—St. Petersburg Times

“Combining the stunning color and black-and-white photography of award-winning photographer Barry Brukoff with in-depth historical context provided by leading Khmer historian Helen Ibbitson Jessup, Temples of Cambodia details the rich and storied history of the architectural achievements of an ancient empire.”—Austin American-Statesman


About the Royal Cities of the Ancient Maya

The Maya are of enormous and abiding fascination to anybody interested in archaeology, ancient history, astronomy, or the visual arts. From the 3rd century BC to the 14th century AD, while Europe was deep in the Dark and Middle Ages, the Maya were producing astonishing sculpture, stelae, and wall murals, and building magnificent temples, palaces, tombs, and ball courts. Now, in this extraordinary volume pairing a leading Maya scholar and one of the world’s finest photographers of ancient sites, the rich cultural heritage of the Maya is brought vividly and authoritatively to life.

Author Michael Coe traces the rise and fall of Maya civilization through its great royal cities, from El Mirador, the largest and oldest, to the rival city-states of the Classical period such as Tikal, Calakmul, Yaxchilán, Palenque, Toniná, and Copán. He then moves on to the great cities of the Terminal Classic period; at a time when the mighty centers of the southern lowlands were in a steep decline, cities to the north such as Uxmal and Kabah achieved a pinnacle of architectural beauty. After that he turns to the Postclassic period and Chichén Itzá in central Yucatán, a huge, cosmopolitan city that flourished during a military and cultural takeover by the Toltecs of central Mexico. Through convincing analysis of archaeological evidence, new readings, of artifacts, reliefs, and murals, Professor Coe untangles the complex sequences of internecine ritual warfare that eventually weakened Maya civilization.

Illustrating Coe’s riveting history of these remarkable polities, the powerful dynasties that led them, and the political intrigues and armed conflicts that threatened their existence, are the exceptionally evocative photographs of Barry Brukoff, whose color and sepia imagery recalls the lithographs of the early-nineteenth-century artist and explorer Frederick Catherwood.


About the Contributor(s)

Michael D. Coe is Charles J. MacCurdy Professor of Anthropology, Emeritus, at Yale University, and Curator Emeritus in Yale’s Peabody Museum of Natural History. For many years he was advisor to the Center for Pre-Columbian studies at Dumbarton Oaks, Washington, D. C. He has conducted field research in Mexico, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and New York. A member of the National Academy of Sciences, he is the author of 18 books and monographs, including The Maya, 8th edition (Thames & Hudson), Breaking the Maya Code (Thames & Hudson), and The True History of Chocolate (Thames & Hudson).

Barry Brukoff is an award-winning photographer whose books include The Enigma of Stonehenge, text by John Fowles (Summit); Morocco, text by Paul Bowles (Abrams); Greece: Land of Light, text by Nicholas Gage (Bulfinch); and Machu Picchu, poetry by Pablo Neruda with a foreword by Isabel Allende (Bulfinch). His recently published Temples of Cambodia (Vendome, 2011) was praised by The Wall Street Journal; “though they take ruins as their subject, Mr. Brukoff’s images capture the most timeless elements of Khmer ingenuity.”