There are two art masterpieces at Copan found nowhere else
in the Mayan world. This is the Hieroglyphic Stairway, 63
steps which tell of Copan's history and its rulers. The several
thousand glyphs have still not been translated, and to make
things worse, archaeologists placed them in the wrong order.
Carved on this alter are the Kings of Copan, 14 of
them, kings on every side. The last ruler shown is
the king who commissioned creation of the alter.
The carvings have survived over a thousand years in fine
shape, providing some of the best authentic images we
have of Mayan royalty. Large noses are a Mayan trait.
Here is the Copan Acropolis in 1995, with the jungle trying to
regain control. As with nearly all the other great Mayan cities,
Copan collapsed for reasons still unknown. The last carved
record at Copan was made in 822, nearly 1200 years ago.
The Maya generally abandoned their cities in favor of a less
complex culture, and the Maya have survived throughout their
traditional areas in Central America and Mexico to the present
day, numbering in the millions.
When the Spanish came, there were few Mayan cities to resist
the conquest. Those cities that fought were mostly destroyed
by the Spanish, but a great many others, such as Copan, remain
relatively intact, because the Spanish ignored them. In
addition to their decentralized structure, that is why there are
so many Mayan sites compared to what little remains of the
defeated Inca and Aztec Empires, whose great structures were
demolished by the victorious Spanish conquerors.
If you have a high speed internet connection, watch the
Intrepid Berkeley Explorer's free video of this trip to Central
America and Mexico by clicking on: