Copán Ruinas, Honduras
GPS: 14.837303103387, -89.141363140735
The Maya site of Copán is located in the western part of Honduras, about 12 kilometres from the Guatemalan border. For several centuries, this city has been known as Xukpi or Oxwitik. It was under the reign of King K’inich Yax K’uk’ Mo’, founder of a new dynasty, that it was renamed Copán and developed rapidly at the beginning of the 6th century. As a large city-state in the Maya Lowlands, Copán was the regional capital and cultural centre in the post-classical period (from 500 AD to 900 AD). During this time, the Maya civilization spread over a vast territory from southern Mexico (Yucatán) to Guatemala, Belize, Honduras and as far as El Salvador.
The ruins of Copán are located near the modern city of Copán Ruinas, in a fertile and mountainous valley. They are among the most important remains of the pre-Columbian Maya civilization with the archaeological sites of Chichen Itza (Mexico) and Tikal (Guatemala). Like most of the ancient cities of Central America, the site of Copán was discovered when it was completely covered by tropical jungle. The Spanish conquistador Diego García de Palacio was the first to discover its ruins in 1570 before they were studied in depth by the American explorer John Lloyd Stephens in 1839. According to specialists, this major Maya site experienced its golden age between the 5th and 7th centuries. It is said to have developed close links with the cities of Teotihuacan and Tikal, before being gradually abandoned by its 20,000 to 30,000 inhabitants from the beginning of the 10th century. Intensive deforestation, combined with soil erosion, the impoverishment of agricultural land and population growth, probably caused the decline of the city. Episodes of drought and flooding increased in the region, leading to food shortages, increased child mortality and the spread of disease.
Although it does not contain the highest buildings in the Maya world, Copán is closely studied by archaeologists due to the multitude of inscription, hieroglyphic and stelae found there. These relics impress with the level of mastery and precision in sculptural art. It represents the finest artistic achievements of the Maya civilization. In addition to the ceremonial buildings and royal monuments in a formidable state of preservation, the Copán site contains a Hieroglyphic Stairway with more than 2,000 glyphs and very elaborate motifs. The Maya language found in Copán is still spoken by the Ch’orti people living in this region of Honduras and neighbouring Guatemala.