Sunday, January 27, 2013

Honduras - Copán

While heading back to Guatemala from Belize, Molly and I decided to take a day to visit the Copán ruins in Honduras.  Ever since I was enamored with Indiana Jones as a child, I have thoroughly enjoyed visiting archaeological sites around the US and the world, and this trip proved no different.  It made such a contrast to Tikal, surprising us with its artistic beauty, and our guide, Fidel, took it upon himself to explain every hieroglyph in sight!

For those who don't know, Copán was a Mayan capital city of a major Classic period kingdom from the 5th to 9th centuries AD.  It is located in western Honduras, close to the border with Guatemala, and was inhabited for more than two thousand years!  Its peak population was at least 20,000, covering an area of over 100 sq miles. Unfortunately a considerable portion of the acropolis was eroded away by the Copán River, until it was diverted to prevent further damage.  In 1980 it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  It was well known for its stelae, sculptures, and carvings.  Some interesting things I remember: a notorious ruler known as Eighteen Rabbit, a large Mayan ballcourt, and a room full of vampire bats where they would put enemies or traitors...such friendly folks.  I believe our guide compared Copán to the Paris of the Mayan world (with art and temples covered in some sort of white plaster), whereas Tikal was the New York of its time (with tall pyramids stretching to the heavens).

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