Published online by Cambridge University Press: 13 June 2012
Recent investigations carried out at the Maya site of Nakum, located in the northeastern part of Guatemala, revealed traces of very intense Terminal Classic period occupation and architectural construction and renovation. Archaeological excavations in the site's core and its periphery indicate that the apogee of Nakum's cultural prosperity and demographic increase occurred during the Terminal Classic period when many new structures were constructed and almost all old constructions were rebuilt. The growth and prosperity of Terminal Classic Nakum stands in stark contrast to the prevailing pattern of collapse and abandonment seen at many other lowland Maya sites during this turbulent period. Archaeological and epigraphic data suggest that Nakum survived the collapse of other major cities such as Tikal or Naranjo by at least a century. Nakum's success can be attributed to its role as a fluvial port that controlled commercial activities within this region. Its advantageous location on the banks of the Holmul River, combined with weakened competition from formerly more powerful neighbors such as Tikal and Naranjo, apparently permitted Nakum's ruling elite to actively expand its trade relationships in spite of the broad economic and political crisis that profoundly affected the Southern Maya Lowlands. However, its success was relatively brief, for by the end of the Terminal Classic (ca. a.d. 950) Nakum apparently succumbed to the same forces that had caused the collapse and abandonment of most Southern Maya Lowland cities.