Observations from Kew Gardens (UK) and now Houston (US).
March 31, 2010
OAT Honduras: Copan
Copan was a capital Mayan city during the 5th to 9th centuries AD. Every 52 years, new temples were built over the old temples. Las Sepulturas describes the residential area within Copan. The Maya were the only people in the Americas to develop writing. Most importantly, the Maya are not a "lost" civilization because Mayans and their communities still exist today.
Altar Q is a rectangular stone altar with carved portraits of all Copán's rulers from the founder, Yax Kuk Mo, to the last, Yax Pac.
The "Hieroglyphic Stairway" has 63 steps with 2,500 glyphs, or symbols (Maya use symbols to represent phonetic syllables instead of letters), carved into the stone. This and the Mayan translation / codices developed by Bishop Diego de Landa were crucial in deciphering 85% of the Mayan glyphs (Yuri Knorozov and David Stuart are important contributors to this effort). "18 Rabbit" (13th King) built the Hieroglyphic Stairway but his successors expanded it in an attempt to regain respect among their subjects after 18 Rabbit was captured and publicly beheaded by minor enemies.
Other trivia I learned:
- Skulls probably refer to a place of burial
- Carvings that look like an elephant trunk really represent a macaw