Copan is an ancient archaelogical site of the Mayan civilization located near Copan Ruinas in western Honduras, near the border or Guatemala. It was a capital city of a major Classic period society from the 5th to 9th century AD.
Discovered by Diego García de Palacio in 1570, the Maya site of Copan is one of the most important sites of the Mayan civilization. The city functioned as the political, civil and religious center of the Copan Valley. It was also the political centre and cultural focus of a larger territory that covered the southeast portion of the Maya area.
The Plazas of Mayan Ruins of Copan
- Ceremonial Plaza: The stadium opens onto a huge mound with sculptured monoliths and altars.
- The Hieroglyphic Stairway Plaza: With the stairway at its eastern end, it is one of the the most outstanding preserved structures of Mayan culture. The risers of this 100 m wide stairway contain more than 1,800 individual glyphs which constitute the longest known Mayan inscription.
- The Eastern Plaza: This level rises a considerable height above the valley floor. On its western side is a stairway sculptured with figures of jaguars formerly inlaid with black obsidian. This tier has multiple entrances into the lower catacombs and the underground church, La Iglesia.
- Ball Court: Remodeled throughout time, the final form has six sculptures in the shape of macaw heads as its markers.
Significant cultural developments took place with achievements in mathematics, astronomy and hieroglyphic writing. The archaeological remains and public squares reveal the three main stages of development, during which evolved the temples, plazas, altar complexes and ball courts that can be seen today.
The sculpture design of Copán reached a immensely high degree of perfection. The Acropolis, a fantastic architectural complex, appears today as a mass of rubble which grew through successive additions of pyramids, terraces and temples. The world’s largest archaeological cut runs traverses the Acropolis. In the walls of the cut, it is possible to distinguish floor levels of previous structures and covered water outlets. What seems like many different structures is actually an immense super-structure with countless tiers. The construction of the Great Plaza and the Acropolis reflects an unparalleled amount of effort due to its original paved area of three hectares and its elevated mass with rises 30 meters off the ground.
The site is walking distance from the nearby town of Copan Ruinas. It includes a jungle trail that snakes through the surrounding area, passing massive ceba trees, countless crumpled ruins, and even another ball court. This trail is accessible, even before the site is open for visitors so get there early for a private walk through the shadows of the Maya.