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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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Vaca Plateau and Maya Mountains

Vaca Plateau and Maya Mountains

(p.119) 6 Vaca Plateau and Maya Mountains
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 presents two cities–Caracol and Minanha–from the Vaca Plateau area of the Maya Mountains. Caracol is the largest Maya city in the eastern lowlands, while Minanha is a small and short-lived center. The two cities represent contrasting expressions of Maya urbanism, but were likely linked politically by proximity. The chapter begins with a description of the natural setting of the area before examining first Minanha and then Caracol. The former experienced a rapid Late Classic expansion that accompanied the establishment of the royal court, possibly by elite from Caracol, ca. 675 CE, becoming the largest and most important city in the north Vaca Plateau until its royal acropolis was terminated ca. 810 CE. Caracol is a remarkable Maya site and a unique expression of city building in the eastern lowlands dominated by the towering Caana structure. Caracol’s large number of carved monuments and hieroglyphic texts provide more historical information than is available for all the other cities of the eastern lowlands combined. With its massive monumental buildings, large paved plazas, expansive network of causeways (sacbeob), extensive agricultural terraces, and dense settlement, Caracol represents a heavily engineered built environment and highly planned urban landscape.

Keywords:   Vaca Plateau, Maya Mountains, Caracol, Minanha, Caana, sacbeob, causeways, terraces

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