FOCAL NODES AND RITUAL ECONOMY IN ANCIENT MAYA HINTERLAND COMMUNITIES: A CASE STUDY FROM SAN LORENZO, BELIZE
Public structures in the Maya region materialize ideologies and define centers of power as they create politically charged sacred landscapes. These locations are focal nodes for community and polity making processes, embedding social hierarchies, ideologies, and social memories into the physical landscape. Archaeologists, however, have historically focused little attention on small-scale focal nodes within rural communities. To explore the ways hinterland or rural communities may integrate and articulate with larger heartland seats of power, this article examines one such public group at the hinterland site of San Lorenzo, Belize. Drawing from studies of integrative features, we explore practices of affiliation from the Late Preclassic through the Terminal Classic periods and the ways they are expressed at a civic-ceremonial community space through ritual economy. Focal nodes facilitated the face-to-face interactions that were necessary for community integration and the practices enacted within such spaces allow associated groups to negotiate and display their status within the community and to larger regional polities.