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Mayan Ruins in Copán

This once beautiful city, even in ruins now, illustrates the peak of the Mayan civilisation's achievements


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Copán is a royal city in the jungle, located in the south-east of the Mesoamerican cultural region—a rare place where Mayan culture is still alive. Like many other cities, Copán fell victim to the crisis of the 9th century, the causes of which have not yet been established. Nowadays, the overgrown jungle has swallowed up many of the buildings and wiped out the outlines of survivors.

There are a number of interesting features in Copán which capture the imagination—well-preserved statues as well as various rock carvings. The carved slabs depict the rulers of Copán together with a description of their deeds. Traces of paint on the walls and sculptures indicate that all the main buildings in the squares and sculptures of Copán were once brightly painted.

Around the five main squares, stepped, pyramid-shaped palaces and temples rise. The main treasure of Copán is the so-called hieroglyphic ladder. These are 63 stairs leading to the top of the pyramid. This is the largest single text in stone in the whole of Mayan culture, which tells the political history of Copán.

Copán is often called a city of squares. The most stunning sites are the hieroglyphic stairway plaza, ceremonial plaza, and Easter plaza. Although formerly Copan was on the outskirts of the Mayan civilisation, it certainly can not be called a province. The best time to explore this historic city is during November–April in order to avoid the rainy season.

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