Saturday, January 11, 2014

The Ruins at Copán

As mentioned in this post we visited Copán, Honduras in March 2013. And we spent an afternoon exploring the Mayan Ruins the city is known for.

It was very hot, over 100 ℉ the day we visited, which had the beneficial side effect of keeping the crowds down. We were there during easter week, which also helped to lower the crowds as many of the locals were off visiting friends and relatives or vacationing at the shore (we saw many folks waiting for buses in the town square each morning).

One thing that struck me about the site was the number and size of the trees that had grown throughout.

They are ceiba trees, also known as silk cotton trees, (Ceiba pentandra). In Mayan mythology these trees linked the world of the living with the underworld. Today they grow throughout the site, giving an obvious feel to just how old the place is.

Our guide (seen next to Patty in the first image above) described Copán as the "Paris of the Mayan empire" explaining that it was the center of the Mayan art world. If you were an artist you wanted to go to Copán. And Mayan art means working in rock.

Which was evident throughout the site.

Some badly weathered.

Others less so.

Animal motifs and images of the rulers seemed to be the main themes.

As Mayan sites go this is a small one and we had no trouble seeing it all despite the heat. There were three main areas. The main temple, which can be seen in the first three images at the start of the post.

The living quarters.

And the open grounds which could be seen form the main temple and included sculptures, the ball court and the covered hieroglyphic stairway. Note the there are ruins throughout the Copán region, not just here at the main site, places where people lived and worked.

The hieroglyphic stairway tells the story of all sixteen rulers of Copán, each block on each stair carved and telling part of the story. Unfortunately the stairway needed to be restored, and the order of the blocks was not known. This along with missing blocks, means we do not know the full story told by the stairs.

Our guide told us the story of how when he was a young boy he would come to the site to visit his father, who was an archeologist working to restore the ruins. They would excavate an area and rebuild parts that had fallen in to disrepair in the 1200 or so years since the city had been abandoned. His dad would tell the visitors that the Mayans had built what they were seeing. The young boy confronted his dad one day asking why he was lying to the tourists, "why do you tell them the Mayans built these things when I've seen you build them from the rocks you dig up?" Regardless of who built them the structures were quite impressive.

Here we are looking back at the main temple which, except for the trees, would be how a citizen of the city would see the ruler and nobles sitting on the side of the temple when ball games were being played or during religious festivals.

We ended our visit by walking the about the courtyard enjoying the statues (but not the heat). We did a short hike through the woods back to the visitor center and then headed back to our hotel for a cool drink at the bar.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Loved the visit Thanks. Impressed with Mayan Galvanized Iron Roofing too!