5 Facts about the Mayan Lost City of Copan
No matter how far you have traveled; no matter how many historical and cultural sites you have taken in; no matter how many spectacles you have beheld, you cannot help but be captured by the Mayan site of Copan. The lost city makes us lost, too – lost in our imaginations, in wondering what life must have been like, in thinking about archeologists painstakingly excavating the ruins to reveal their beauty and significance. Copan is a magical site; more so when we bring fresh eyes and a willingness to be awed.
Here is an at-a-glance look at the Mayan lost city:
- A quick timeline: the city was built and occupied for about 2,000 years. It was abandoned in the 10th century and would then begin to be reclaimed by nature until the 16th century. In 1570, Copan was discovered by Diego Garcia de Palaci, but it would not be excavated for another three centuries.
- Copan’s main complex is made of the Acropolis and several plazas. These are impressive in their own right, and each is unique. The Easter Plaza soars above the valley and features a stairway with sculpted jaguars. The Hieroglyphic Stairway Plaza is one of the Mayan’s greatest creations. The 10 meter-wide stairway has a series of glyphs, which are still being deciphered. The Ceremonial Plaza features an open stadium and imposing sculptures and altars.
- There are “lesser” complexes, which feature restored structures, including stone benches, more glyphs, plazas, and monuments. Altar Q, for instance, features carvings of the first 16 kings of the Copan era. Each sits on a glyph of his name. On the side, the dynastic founder K’inich Yax K’uk’ Mo’ transfers power to Yax Pasaj. Not only is this a fascinating structure, it helps archaeologists and historians unearth more details about this culture.
- At its peak, Copan, including the valley, was home to at least 20,000 people. The “greater Copan area” expanded over 250 square kilometers.
- Nature took its toll on the complex before it was excavated. It has suffered the effects of erosions, earthquakes, and, of course, humans. When visiting, take nothing and leave nothing! Pictures are an exception – as are memories!
Copan is a historical, cultural, and archaeological gem. Transport yourself back in time as you walk through the complexes. The surrounding scenery is also quite remarkable. The Lost City has been found, but there are still discoveries to be made.