Although the focus of this book is Classic period cities, the Preclassic developments in what is now Belize warrant discussion as they provided the basis for the architectural and planning innovations that followed in the Classic period. Some of the best evidence for the origins of settled village life, a precursor to the rise of urbanism, and early monumental architecture comes from the eastern lowlands. This chapter examines five Preclassic sites in the Belize Valley and northern Belize, and each site highlights an important development. Cahal Pech provides data on the earliest Maya settlement in the eastern lowlands. Blackman Eddy demonstrates the importance the Maya placed on continuity of construction at sacred locations. Colha presents evidence for craft specialization on an almost industrial scale. Cuello’s mass graves suggest warfare and sacrifice accompanied the transformation from village to ceremonial center. Finally, Cerros is an example of perhaps the most important development from the viewpoint of power, social organization, and city building: the advent the first divine Maya kings.
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