Thursday, July 19, 2007

Honduran Hooky - Part 4, The Ruins at Copan

I woke up refreshed and energetic the next morning and I couldn’t wait for my morning coffee. I showered and just about ran to the Welchez Café at our hotel. Sean would meet me there later when he was ready. Woody and Katy were already there too waiting for Carlos. The too looked rested and ready to go. Breakfast was informal and we ordered pancakes and eggs. We all were very hungry and wolfed down our food. Carlos and Sean joined us late. Carlos was not hungry, having eaten already, which was too bad since we had planned on treating him. But we ordered some food for him and did pretty well with it. Sean ate well too.

Even though the ruins were not that far, only about half a mile, it was going to get pretty hot out, so we drove the van. We all piled in and got there in no time flat. Carlos had his guide stick with a little feather on the end as many of the local guides had.

We paid the $10 fee to enter the park and first there were the colorful macaws that guard the entrance. Carlos warned us that they bite and not to get too close. As I recall, they were pretty noisy.

We entered the Great Plaza which was built between the years of 711 and 736 AD by the thirteenth ruler of the Maya, 18th Rabbit. It was a huge open area dotted with five stela and accompanying altars which Carlos showed to us one by one. (Click on images to enlarge.)

Here are two of the stelae we saw:

Note how deep the carvings are, some of them are so deep that they are almost three dimensional. This is one of the most striking and unique things about this Mayan site at Copan.

This large stone head was used as an altar:

Here is a photograph of Altar Q which was built in 776 AD by the 16th ruler, King Yax Pac:

Altar Q is significant because it depicts all of the Maya rulers of Copan, from the very first, Yax Kuk Mo in 426 AD to the 16th all seated in full length. The first ruler is handing the scepter of power to the final or 16th ruler, above. Carlos pointed out that the amazing thing is that that is when the Maya empire ended with the 16th ruler. So it was as if they knew it would end then.

Then we saw the hieroglyphic stairway, which was protected from rain by a tarp. It was built by the 15th ruler, Smoke Shell and is believed to be a lineage tree.

Next was the East Court and Ball Court. Note the macaw heads decorating the building. Apparently, the captains of the winning team were sacrificed to the gods.

Here is a detail from the Ball Court:

If you climb the wall of the East Court and look over the side, here is the view:

We also saw the tunnels, which cost extra, but it was so freaking hot out and it was cool and refreshing down there. Here is what we saw:

Then we climbed the pyramids and climbed everything in sight. I had my umbrella cum parasol out to shade me from the unrelenting sun. This cemetery is what you see if you climbed the main pyramid and looked over the other side away from the Grand Plaza:

Carlos asked if anyone had a red one lempira bill and I pulled one out and we compared it to the view and it was identical:

Here is the same view, but a bit to the leftt:

See the tree and the ball court, then the bill has the other side of the ball court and the hieroglyphic stair.

So we sat there on top of this pyramid and Sean and I looked at each other and we both felt that this was one of those rare architectural places of power, where by scale and design, something special had been achieved that made the viewer experience profound and memorable. I can only compare it to other places where I have felt it. For example, Saint Peter's Square in Rome made me feel that way. Somehow the power of that place is both overwhelming and uplifting at the same time. The power at Copan, was just uplifting, kind of like a high. But, to be honest, I didn't feel it until I climbed up on top of the pyramid. So, if you ever get the chance it is worth the visit.

The photos with black frames are from:


about a boy said...

those are some fantabulous shots!

Sue said...

Yeah. That is why I credited the photographer. It is also a fabulous place to go and see. Mind blowing is how I would describe it.