Copan’s Archeological Park
Located in a valley of the same name, western Honduras is, perhaps, the best source of information about ancient Mayan civilization.
Throughout the valley there are remains of this great civilization that lived in the area and that reached its maximum splendor between the sixth and eighth centuries of our era.
The most amazing attractions left to us by the Mayans of Copan are the Copán Ruinas Archeological Park; the archaeological site of Las Sepulturas; Los Sapos, a small set of sculpted rocks among which appear in the shape of frogs; the stelae (statues) located across the valley, and two museums: the Regional Museum of Archeology and the Museum of Mayan Sculpture.
The long history of archaeological research and excavation in Copán has shown an extensive network of tunnels that were dug under the archaeological site. Once closed to the public, these tunnels have opened a window into the past exposing tombs and temples that are not in plain sight. For a few years, the Honduran Institute of Anthropology and History has opened two of these tunnels to the public: the Rosa Lila tunnel and the Los Jaguares tunnel.
One of the most common questions among visitors to Copán is where and how the inhabitants of the Mayan city lived. And the answer can be found in Las Sepulturas (Gravesites). Las Sepulturas are an integral part of the Archaeological Project of Copan, and are located only two kilometers away from the main archaeological park. They are known by this name because of the Mayan custom of burying their dead in the same house where they lived. Today it is known that this was a residential area of Copan’s elite, during the days of the reign of Yax-Pac, the last king of Copan.
The first news of the Ruins of the Maya City of Copán dates back to 1576, when Diego Garcia de Palacio, a judge of the Royal Court of Guatemala, wrote to Philip II, King of Spain, mentioning the discovery of the ruins of this Mayan city. Subsequently, several explorers visited the ruins of Copán. Bishop Vásquez de Espinoza in 1613, who on his journey in Honduras wrote:
“There are magnificent buildings of times unknown, that throughout the ages memory was lost, and news of those who made them and constructed their great antiquity among the ruins of them. There are prodigious, admirable things … ” (Acosta, 1995; 25).
In 1834, Colonel Juan Galindo, in the service of the Federal Government of Central America, made the first explorations and reported on what was found there. In 1839, the American John L. Stephens, accompanied by the English artist, Frederick Catherwood, visited the ruins and reproduced engravings of the abandoned Mayan City of Copan.
In the year 1885, Englishman Alfred Maudslay arrived in Copan. He established the first nomenclature of monuments and sculptures. He also made reproductions of steles and altars in gypsum molds, in addition to a topographic map of the Main Group. All the material collected by him is displayed in the British Museum.
In 1891, the Peabody Museum of Harvard University obtained permission from the Government of Honduras to perform excavations in which the Hieroglyphic Staircase, tombs and sculptures were discovered.
In 1910, Dr. Sylvanus G. Morley arrived in Copan, who conducted numerous investigations. Following the investigations, the Carnegie Institution of Washington and the Government of Honduras signed an agreement in 1934 to allow the Carnegie to undertake restoration work on monuments. Stromsvik is responsible for carrying out this work.
The Archaeological Park of Copán Ruinas is located at 1.5 km from the village. In 1980 it was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, and considered by guides and archaeologists as the Paris of its time. The Copán Ruinas Archaeological Park is a city that impresses in every way. Here political, religious and civic acts were held. The Main Group can be divided into two areas: Gran Plaza and Acropolis. While the first was a public space, the second was a closed area, reserved for the ruling elite. Other important areas to visit are the Ball Court, the Hieroglyphic Stairway and the Museum of Sculpture.
Hours: Daily from 8:00AM -6:00PM
Foreign Visitors: Park $15 (includes visit to Las Sepulturas)
Museo de las Esculturas (Sculpture Museum) $8
Central American Visitors: Park $8 (includes visit to Las Sepulturas)
Museo de las Esculturas (Sculpture Museum) $5
Honduran Visitors: Park L80.00 (includes visit to Las Sepulturas, Museo de las Esculturas, and Archeological Museum)