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Nakbe (Guatemala)


Nakbe - Maya Civilization Site - Guatemala

Nakbe - Maya Civilization Site - Guatemala


Nakbe is a central city of the Maya civilization located in the central lowlands of the Peten peninsula in Guatemala. First occupied perhaps as early as 800 BC, Nakbe reached its heyday during the last half of the Middle Pre-Classic period (between about 600 and 350 BC), when most of the architectural structures visible today were built. The architecture include a royal compound; one building was 45 meters tall.

Nakbe and the Stela Cult

Nakbe's importance lies in its association with the so-called Stela Cult. Stelas at sites such as Nakbe were erected by elite rulers in association with special events and holidays on the calendar. They were an important part of the establishment of centralized authority among the preclassic and classic Maya.

Stela 1 at Nakbe shows two elite figures facing each other which are stylistically similar (and earlier than) Early Classic Maya lowland political art. A profile head floats above the two elites that appears more similar to Olmec iconography.

Nakbe has been extensively investigated by Ian Graham and Richard Hansen, with particular emphasis on limestone quarrying activities.


This glossary entry is part of the Guide to the Maya Civilization and the Dictionary of Archaeology.

Henderson, John S. 1997. The World of the Ancient Maya. Cornell University Press, Ithaca.

Newsome, Elizabeth. 2001. Stela Cult. Pp. 686-687 in Archaeology of Central America and Mexico, eds. Susan Toby Evans and David L. Webster. Garland.

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