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Residential, Administrative, & Household Structures at Lamanai, Belize

Maya architecture in and of it self is literally the largest of all material culture categories.  Although archaeologists are quick to provide the function of a structure even over descriptive and narrative information it is often difficult to discern the use of structures and buildings (this is the case throughout the field of archaeology).  An attempt has been made through the efforts of D. Pendergast and S. Loten to establish some continuity in the use of descriptive Maya architectural terms (Loten, H.S. and David M. Pendergast 1984. A Lexicon for Maya Architecture. Archaeology Monograph 8. Royal Ontario Museum).  This lexicon provides a dictionary, a verbal tool kit, of Maya architectural terms for archaeologists; it provides precise terminology that makes the laborious recording and reporting process easier.

Although there is a fair amount of variability in Maya architecture, especially regional and temporal differences, there still are numerous similarities.  For instance due to building restrictions rooms found in residential areas are very narrow, vaulting of limestone placed on the upper portions needed thick walls to be supported and the result was a narrow space within.

Elite Residential Structures from Lamanai, Belize

Narrow rooms depicted in the lower left – cross section of a Maya corbelled vault also visible (illustration by L. Belanger,








Upper Stucco Façade, Structure N10-28, Lamanai, Belize

Detailed upper façade stucco from Structure N10-28 also seen in M. Shelby's work ( /98037/index.html) - N10-28 or Tulip is the second structure from the right (image above) with the upper façade decorations illustrated – the majority of the stucco was located in the courtyard directly in front of the building, and was recovered by D. Pendergast, C. Belanger, and M. Shelby – this elaborately decorated building surely housed some of Lamanai's most important individuals

Structure N10-15, Lamanai Residential Area

Central stair leads to upper buildings and rooms, unlike N10-77 found by Graham to have rooms that open right into the courtyard – by definition a courtyard generally restricts access to an area and this architectural element provides us with valuable information that archaeologically is often lost



Structure N10-15 - Lamanai, Belize

Recent consolidation work on rooms and benches in the residential area – a large percentage of rooms contain benches that we believe either served as sleeping areas or were for administrative uses  

Mound II - Lamanai South, Belize

Residential structures in the urban sprawl of Lamanai – smaller house mounds similar to this are much more common throughout the Maya area– but it is this type of residential architecture that occurs in the later time periods at Lamanai that are so difficult to identify, patterns become irregular for many reasons including resource and man power shortages – research on residential households during the Late Postclassic to Colonial transition period is being conducted by D. Weiwall

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