Feb 15, 2016

Honduras' Copan

When I travel to archeological sites like Copan I wonder what Oswego County and places like New York City will be like in 1500 years.  If the global warming progresses as some predict the oceans will rise significantly and possibly 1500 years from now the cities and localities we know today may be under water. Seems impossible but I imagine the Mayans never thought their flourishing world would one day be overtaken by the jungle. Copan is just one of the
great Mayan cities with pyramids, temples, and where art flourished. Copan is considered the most artistic of the Mayan cities and sometimes referred to as the “Athens of the Mayan World.” Copan started as an agricultural settlement around 1000 BC and reached its peak between AD 300 and 900. Today all that is left are the impressive stone works.  At one time they were bright and colorful. The civilization began to decline due to war and unsuccessful battles that led to internal revolts.  Also, it is thought that the population grew beyond its ability to feed the people and, of course, there were diseases that were introduced by the explorers. 

The hieroglyphic staircase contains over 1250 blocks of stone. Each
stone of the stairway is engraved with Mayan text. When the structure was discovered much of it had been disturbed by nature and people. The stones were reassembled without an understanding of the language so the stones are not in the proper sequence consequently the text is out of order.  It would be like having 1250 loose pages of a history book with no page numbers and in a foreign language. Another issue is the interpretation of the glyphs. There is much to learn. 

One of fascinating sites is the ball court. The game was popular throughout Middle America and it was more than a game. The game often had a religious significance where the sport was literally a game of life and death. The exact rules are not known and there were many variations but the object was to get the rubber ball through one of the rings. The players couldn’t use their hands.  Today the site is quiet but wandering around and then sitting on one of the benches I wondered what it must have
been like when it was in full swing.  None of the people’s homes or shops made of wood and reeds have survived. Their ceremonies must have been impressive.  John and I first visited the site in 1990 and an archeologist had recently discovered the Rosalila Temple inside Temple 16.  We were fortunate that our guide knew the archeologist and we were allowed
to walk in the narrow path that led to the part of the hidden temple they were uncovering. Today, for a separate fee, it is possible to enter the tunnel to the temple but I understand it doesn’t go very far.  However, to get an idea of what the temple was like the museum has a great reproduction of the Rosalila Temple. We have much to learn about the Mayans.  

Not far from Copan is the Macaw Mountain Bird Park & Nature
Reserve where there are many macaws and other colorful birds.  The object of the park is to protect, preserve and breed macaws and then reintroduce them into the wild.  Several of the bright, beautiful macaws are once again free to fly in and around the great city of Copan.