Legacy of the Mayan Kings
What’s interesting about the site is that although the settlement is compact and enclosed, traces of the civilization can be found throughout the surrounding valley. Of most interest to the archaeologists are, "Las Sepulturas", "Los Sapos" , the stelae surrounding the valley and the two museums:the Museum of Archaeology, located in the town and the Museum of Maya Sculpture, located within the Visitors Center area of the Park.
There are roughly eight principal parts to Copan:
Smaller and less famous than the PoctaPoc Ball court in Chichen Itza, Copan’s Ball Court was considered to be the social center of the city and by far the most artistic ball court in Meso-America. Its side walls, resembling macaw heads, are eloquent and elaborate masterpieces created by very skilled Mayan artists.copan ruins
The Great Plaza is famous for its stelae and altars that lay scattered around this immense plaza. Most of the stelaes that are standing today were erected during the times of the 13th ruler, known as 18 Rabbit between the years 711 AD and 736 AD. These Copan Valley Stelaes there are a series of stelaes that are situated throughout the valley in strategic locations. Some of these are very easily accessible, while others require an effort to get to. All of them were erected by Butz Hunab K'awil, more commonly known as Smoke Imix-God K as part of an effort to demonstrate the power of the Maya kings, the power of creation, inherited directly from the Gods that founded the order of the present world. Through them, he made the entire Copan valley his personal portal to the other world. Many of the altars have a zoomorphic form. Sadly, because of poor coordination and organization, theses alters are no longer in their original positions in the plaza. Rather, they lay in approximate locations.
The Hieroglyphic Stairway temple holds the longest known text by the ancient Maya civilization, longer even than Palenque’s Temple of Inscriptions. It was erected by ruler number 15, known as Smoke-Shell and is believed to be a lineage tree, recording the ascension and death of all Copan rulers from Yax-Kuk-Mo to Smoke-Shell, much like the lineage tree found in the Palenque site. copan tours
The five portraits located in the stairway are said to represent the five successors to the dynasty. Unfortunately, the glyphs can not be read because the steps had all fallen out of place. Much like the stelae in the plaza, the somewhat unorganized archaeologists rebuilt the temple, but had no way of knowing where each piece belonged. Today, this magnificent temple has an enormous tarp covering it to protect the steps from further erosion, which has unfortunately already damaged a great part of the glyphs.
The Acropolis is divided in two big plazas:the west court and the east court. The west court houses temple 11 and temple 16 with the unique altar Q set at its base. Temple 11 was built during the reign of Yax-Pac, and is his most significant architectural contribution to Copan. This very elaborate temple was meant to be his portal to the other world. Altar Q has now been completely "read" and depicts each (16) of the members of the Copan Dynasty... including Yax-Pac, seated on their own glyph. In it, the founder of the dynasty Yax-Kuk-Mo is passing the scepter of power directly to Yax-Pac.
Temple 16 lies between the east and the west court, and in its last stage, was finished by Yax-Pac. One unique aspect of this building is that for some reason, the previous standing temple was not defaced or "deactivated or terminated" but instead, a big effort to build on top of it without damaging it was made. This old temple is known today as the "Rosa Lila Temple, or Temple of the Sun" and its discovery has helped archaeologists understand how Copan actually looked in its days of glory. The fine stucco masks of this building retain their original colors, and a replica of this temple is being made at the new museum of sculpture.
The Tunnels have played a major role in the discoveries found in Copan. Archaeological studies and excavations in Copan have lead to the discovery of many tunnels under the site itself. As a matter of fact, there are over 4 kilometers of tunnels under the acropolis, a find that to this day has not been fully explained. It could have been that these tunnels could have served as a war strategy or more facile entry points to the pyramids.copan temples
The tunnels have given archaeologists insight to earlier stages of the Copan urban structure and significant tombs that have enlightened us very much about ancient Maya. Two of these tunnels have been open to the public with ten guided people per walk-through- on a limited basis. The tunnels that are open are the Rosa Lila Tunnel, located under temple 16 and represents what is perhaps the best preserved stucco building in the Maya civilization. A full size replica of this temple can be seen at the Museum of Mayan Sculpture within the park. "Los Jaguares Tunnel", the other tunnel, is over 700 meters long and contains one of the most important tombs in Copan:Galindo's Tomb.
This small site of Las Sepulturas has been imperative to the understanding of Mayan elite living during the final days of Copan. The "Las Sepulturas" archaeological site forms part of the "PAC" (Proyecto Arqueológico Copán) and is located one mile from the central acropolis. It is considered to be the location of residence for the Mayan people of Copan.
Los Sapos is also referred to as the "birthing place". It is a very small site located on the hilltops of Copan, overlooking its exotic valley. Studies suggest that this is an area where the ancient Copanecian Maya women would go to give birth to their children. The area is located within a private ranch, known as Hacienda San Lucas. There is an entrance fee to get into the site. The only way to get here is through a horseback guided tour, which takes about an hour and a half, roundtrip.