Ancient Maya Cities of the Eastern Lowlands

Brett A. Houk

Foreword by Marilyn A. Masson, Michael E. Smith, and John W. Janusek
Hardcover: $79.95
Paper: $32.00
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"Brings together for the first time all the major sites of this part of the Maya world and helps us understand how the ancient Maya planned and built their beautiful cities. It will become both a handbook and a source of ideas for other archaeologists for years to come."--George J. Bey III, coeditor of Pottery Economics in Mesoamerica

"Skillfully integrates the social histories of urban development."--Vernon L. Scarborough, author of The Flow of Power: Ancient Water Systems and Landscapes

"Any scholar interested in urban planning and the built environment will find this book engaging and useful."--Lisa J. Lucero, author of Water and Ritual


For more than a century researchers have studied Maya ruins, and sites like Tikal, Palenque, Copán, and Chichén Itzá have shaped our understanding of the Maya. Yet cities of the eastern lowlands of Belize, an area that was home to a rich urban tradition that persisted and evolved for almost 2,000 years, are treated as peripheral to these great Classic period sites. The hot and humid climate and dense forests are inhospitable and make preservation of the ruins difficult, but this oft-ignored area reveals much about Maya urbanism and culture.

Using data collected from different sites throughout the lowlands, including the Vaca Plateau and the Belize River Valley, Brett Houk presents the first synthesis of these unique ruins and discusses methods for mapping and excavating them. Considering the sites through the analytical lenses of the built environment and ancient urban planning, Houk vividly reconstructs their political history, considers how they fit into the larger political landscape of the Classic Maya, and examines what they tell us about Maya city building.

Brett A. Houk is associate professor of archaeology at Texas Tech University.
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The standardized comparative approach used in this work is unique in Maya studies and will be a useful starting point for site-planning studies outside Belize as well. . . .Highly recommended.-- CHOICE

[Houk] has written a useful synthesis and analysis of Maya architecture in Belize . . . [He] writes clearly, with an approachable style that avoids the drone that architectural reviews often engender.-- Journal of Anthropological Research

A solid, workmanlike and badly needed general account of Belize’s under-valued sites.-- Antiquity

A tremendous book, intellectually rich, detailed, ambitious, and articulate.-- Latin American Antiquity

An important first step in further elucidating how ancient Maya cities developed and changed through time.-- American Anthropologist

By comparing fourteen sites scattered across modern Belize . . . Houk allows for new levels of comparative analysis in an understudied region. Anthropology News

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