Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Copan Ruinas

Ruler 13

We made it to Honduras and after having to spend a night in San Pedro Sula, we arrived in Copan Ruinas – a town completely unlike San Pedro Sula! Copan Ruinas is small, quiet, and safe. Today we went straight to the archaeological site of Copan. Like many famous Maya sites it has been partially restored. This site however, is far off the beaten path of most travelers to Mesoamerica. It was incredibly pleasant to only share the site with a handful of other tourists.

Copan is well-known for its elaborate and well-preserved stelae or carved stone monuments. Each one contains the image of a ruler and inscriptions that describe his reign and ancestry. One of the reasons Copan has so many of this is that its last ruler (Ruler 13, otherwise known as “18 Rabbit”) commissioned a lot of them, both of himself and his late father. Most of the southern Maya city-states were in decline around that time (~AD 800) and Ruler 13 was going to extreme lengths to hold his kingdom together. He ultimately failed, the city of Copan was abandoned, and his elaborately-built tomb was never filled (he presumably died somewhere else).

Copan also has some really cool and unique architecture including basalt construction (more northern Maya sites used limestone) and temples built on top of temples, but those are topics for another post.

A ball court

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