For information on the city prior to the Shattering, see Kunanoten.
Following the Shattering, when the great oceans of Thessia Major were largely evaporated by the world's disintegration, the coastline along which the Telaian capitol of Kunanoten boiled and bled away, leaving behind rich, sandy sediments. When the city was located and re-inhabited in the second millennium tgc, it had drifted out to Main Belt 8, a bit further than most of the famous mountain range that had once served as its backdrop.
Settlements were formed on the former ocean bed, and ever since, the city has been thought of as having two domains: the upper and lower regions. The upper area remains the seat of official matters (both the Quill and the Music legislatures were situated here), but most of the population eventually moved to the lower regions, making the upper echelon a mixture of abandoned skyscrapers and bulky, official and business buildings. Several attempts were made throughout the Reed and Iron eras to amend this, usually resulting in more urban flight (when business and research facilities moved to the lower level) or protests from architectural historians (when the demolishing of the upper level was proposed.) This bipolar obstinateness is considered a hallmark of the city's character.
With the old borders of the land gone, Kunanoten (as one of the largest cities in the outer reaches) became much more diverse in its citizenship than it had been previously. Its name contracted gradually over the centuries; Reed-era documents refer to it still as "Kunanoten" or even "Kunanoten archae"; in the early Iron period it was "Nanoten", and by the late Iron age, "Noten". The name "Mota" seems to have been synthesized by the poets of the early Quill movement, although there are some official Gryphon documents referring to a city called "Nota" in the 8th main belt, providing ample opportunity for well-meaning attempts at reconstruction to misfire.