The three cities discussed in this chapter demonstrate the tremendous variety in Maya urbanism in northern Belize and the degree to which city plans were affected by location. Nohmul is by some measures the third largest site in the eastern lowlands, but has an atypical occupation history and lacks monuments. Its plan follows a minor regional pattern of city planning seen at a number of smaller cities in the area. At Lamanai, the New River Lagoon affected urban growth and city planning for nearly 2,000 years. A desire to incorporate the lagoon as a backdrop for many of the major structures at the site resulted in the linear growth of the site core, with the focal point of ceremonial life gradually shift through time. Altun Ha is perhaps the oddest center discussed in this book; built on a bump in a coastal swamp, its rulers disregarded many basic standards for making a Maya city. The loose arrangement of buildings and the lack of standard structure types would suggest the city’s builders had less concern for such conventions than their peers. In stark contrast to this indifferent attitude toward urban design is the remarkable wealth evidenced in the tombs and caches at Altun Ha.
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