A long-standing understanding of the Maya highlands suggests that the Postclassic period was characterized by increased warfare and conflict over the preceding Classic period, as seen in settlement patterns and defensive features. Based on recent archaeological work in Guatemala's western highlands, we argue that the archaeological evidence does not support this conclusion; defensive characteristics are also common in the Classic period. Drawing on examples from the Huista-Acatec region of the Cuchumatán Mountains, a typology of defensive characteristics is presented, along with comparative examples elsewhere in the Maya highlands. We suggest that these material correlates of defensibility, while showing that conflict was a central concern in both the Classic and Postclassic periods, lay the foundation for future studies of warfare in the Maya highlands. These insights have implications for the study of settlement pattern defensibility beyond the Maya highlands, including the construction and use of defensive feature typologies, the appropriateness of categorizing societies as either peaceful or militaristic, and the wider identification of cultural continuity.