Scribes, Warriors, and Kings:
The City of Copan and the Ancient Maya
William L. Fash
The Maya, one of the most important civilizations in the New World, flourished in the western part of Honduras for over two thousand years. They left an important legacy of art, mathematics and astronomy that still permeate our culture to this day. In modern day Honduras, we can still visit and study the ruins of their great cities and monuments and gaze in wonder at their massive technological achievements long before the aid of modern construction equipment. These ruins have long been the subject of intense study and many great books have been written about their life and times.
The Maya developed a civilization based on a complex sociopolitical structure; at the same time they excelled in the fields of science, mathematics and astronomy. They developed a writing system based on hieroglyphs, which enabled the interpretation by epigraphs to shed light on aspects of their historic evolution. Equally impressive is Mayan art and architecture, which is evidenced in the meticulous planning of their ceremonial centers, dotted with massive scaled graded pyramids. Their well-preserved sculptures, which adorn their altars and historical monuments, as well as their painted murals and the beauty of their work in jade, ceramic and stone, shows us a very artisan people with attention for beauty and detail.
The city of Copan is a city unrivalled by any of its European contemporaries. The acropolis, a large, raised area located at the southern end of the complex, holds several temples, palaces, and two courts. To the North is the ball court and Great Plaza where one finds still more stelae or engraved pillars, and small altars. The Maya designed their cities to represent a harmony between the earthly world and the divine order of the cosmos. Temples, palaces, plazas, and pyramids were all symbolic of the mythological...