A moment with the Mayans (January 2002)index | prev | next

Our final stop in Copan was a visit to the Mayan ruins for which we had ostensibly come this far in the first place.

The roadside was clearly labeled to help passing travelers satisfy their needs for gasoline and ancient Mayan temples.

A scale model was on display near the ticket booth to give one an idea of the magnitude of the excavated ruins. It's a veritable Mayan theme park.

The gate was closely guarded by a pack of attack parrots. Their vicious catcalls struck fear into the hearts of hooligans who dared consider sneaking into the ruins without paying the fee.

We strolled around the big open field, inspecting numerous statues erected to honor the thirteenth ruler of Copan, affectionately known as Rabbit, which is not surprising given that his full name was Waxaklahun Ubah K'awil, which can't have been easy to pronounce after a few drinks.

The Mayans had a fondness for sacrifice (occasionally of humans) and this stone was apparently constructed to channel the blood away from the unfortunate subject in a pleasing spiral.

This friendly turtle guarded the door to the otherworld. This is the side that faced the world of the living.

This side faced the nether regions, where it seems everyone had big foreheads and buck teeth.

This bird watches over the court where a ball game was played in which the losing captain was generally sacrificed as part of an end game religious ritual.

The main attraction at the Copan ruins is this massive staircase in which the steps are intricately carved with a history of the ancient city. The big tarp is protecting it against further erosion by wind and rain.

Here's a look back at the ball field and the steps.

The Mayan sculptors were pretty good at sculpting scary gods, but didn't seem to have devoted a lot of effort to capturing the beauty of their citizenry.

This guy, for example, wasn't getting many dates.

The archaeologists were on the scene, monitoring a variety of weather related data.

Joining the archaeologists were those that came to sit in meditation on the temples, monitoring the spiritual vibes that they believed to be emanating from these ancient places of worship.

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©2002 michael bayne  <mdb@samskivert.com>