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Ancient Maya Cities of the Eastern Lowlands$
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Brett A. Houk

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780813060637

Published to Florida Scholarship Online: September 2015

DOI: 10.5744/florida/9780813060637.001.0001

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Studying Maya Cities

Studying Maya Cities

(p.13) 2 Studying Maya Cities
Ancient Maya Cities of the Eastern Lowlands

Brett A. Houk

Marilyn A. Masson

Michael E. Smith

John W. Janusek

University Press of Florida

This chapter begins by describing the analytical approach applied to the cities in the book–the built environment and site planning–and then considers what Maya cities are in the grand scheme of urban studies. The built environment encompasses many elements of the landscape, but this study is particularly concerned with monumental architecture, including formal plazas, palaces, causeways, reservoirs, ball courts, temples, and tombs. Ancient urban planning or site planning analysis attempts to understand the degree to which cities were planned and to interpret the meaning behind city plans. Meaning, in this case, includes all the factors–symbolic, historical, functional, etc.–that contributed to the final plan of the city, not just high-level meaning such as worldview and cosmology. Maya cities, for the purposes of this study, are regal-ritual centers that affected their hinterlands and were homes to royal courts. The geopolitical landscape of the Classic period and Maya emblem glyphs are discussed. This chapter also looks at multiple aspects of Maya cities including how the Maya built their cities, how those cities fall apart, the architectural inventories common to Maya sites, the engineering concerns Maya architects and builders had to overcome, and how archaeologists collect and portray mapping data.

Keywords:   built environment, site planning, monumental architecture, engineering, landscape, emblem glyphs, Maya cities, regal-ritual centers, worldview, cosmology

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