Excerpt taken from Dust in My Pack by Nancy O'Hare
“Personalities seemed exposed here. In fact, one of my favourite carvings was of a cranky old man. He rested nearby, beside Temple Eleven. His chiselled face emerged from a stone block about a metre square in size—with details including a bandana tied around his head, wrinkles, a furrowed brow and a couple of missing teeth. This effigy was aptly named El Anciano (“The Old Man”).”
... “It was here that the intricacies of the stelae shone brightly for me. Kings would commission pillars to be carved in their likeness, including full ceremonial dress. The first king, Mah K’ina Yax K’uk Mo (“Great Sun Lord Quetzal Macaw”) was frequently carved dripping in macaw feathers and often wrapped in two-headed serpents and other iconic symbols. Our guide explained the significance of the figures and how each king’s story was retold through hieroglyphics on the back of the pillars.”
“Most kings’ stelae recounted tales of victories and bragging rights, likely embellished somewhat. Sadly, one king’s unfortunate fate is now one of the most talked about stories. The king known as Eighteen Rabbit was captured in a military mission turned sour. The unforgiving victor sacrificed Eighteen Rabbit as a show of strength, granting the defeated ruler the infamous title of the only king ever to be sacrificed in Mayan culture."
“It rested in a farmer’s field beneath the shade of a tin roof braced by four steel poles. A placard set in stone at its base explained Stela Twelve’s story, and our guide’s visual narrative brought the tale to life. Across the valley sat a similar pillar named Stela Nineteen. It was out of sight and miles from where we stood, but if one were to attach a piece of string to Stela Twelve and run it over to Stela Nineteen, it would cross exactly through the main temple sanctuary in the Copán ruins, the Grupo Principal. Consider the geometric expertise and precision of measurement required for such a feat, which represented an early city grid system.”
Excerpts taken from Dust in My Pack by Nancy O'Hare
Where: The site is located twelve kilometres from the Guatemalan border.
Transport: Daily shuttles offer transport between Guatemala's cities of Antigua and Guatemala City with Honduras' Copán Ruinas.
Local guides: Certified local guides are available to hire at the main entrance to the Copán site.
Walking tours: Via Via Travel
Accommodation: Various boutique and mid-range hotels are available in the town of Copán Ruinas.
Find out more about this site and other amazing Mayan ruins at Guatemala's Tikal and Yaxhá sites in Dust in My Pack, available at most online bookstores in paperback or eBook.
Nancy O'Hare has lived and worked across five continents and travelled to over eighty countries. Her writing shares insights from her travels and musings about the world around us.