Monday, November 21, 2011

Copán Ruins #2

Okay, now time for some history. Little is known about prehistoric mesoamerica, and although there are references to Copán dating back to the preclassic period, a guy named K'uk' Mo' is thought to have been the one to conquer and re-found copan and grow it into a more advanced and important city. Historians suggest that K'uk' Mo was sent by the rulers in Tikal, the great Mayan metropolis (which I plan to visit in a couple of weeks) to stage a coup in Copán. Writings from Tikal referencing K'uk' Mo' date back as far as 406 AD. According to text discovered at Copán, he was installed as ruler in 426 AD and legitimized his rule by marrying a member of the former ruling family. In these texts, K'uk' Mo' is described as a Teotihuacan warrior, which explains why the architecture at Copan resembles both Tikal and Teotihuacan and also suggests that K'uk' Mo' has roots in two of the most important classic mesoamerican civilizations. His legacy in Copán was so great that almost every ruler built some sort of tribute to him. The first two pictures below are part of a sacrificial platform built in Kuk' Mo's honor. This platform would be at the top of a large flight of stairs where the statue of Kuk' Mo' could look over the entire city and preside over sacrificial ceremonies.

In the photo above is part of the side of an altar around which is carved every single ruler of Kuk' Mo's dynasty. The  scene sculpted here shows Kuk' Mo' handing the torch of rulership over to his son. They both sit on glyphs of their names and the glyphs between their heads marks the date on which Kuk' Mo's son took over.
K'uk Mo's reinvigoration of the city started a dynasty that lasted 16 generations. His son succeeded him and instituted major construction projects, including a huge tomb for his father, which he then buried under another structure, which was again replaced in a rapid (and rather strange) pattern of building structures one on top of the other, which was a common practice in classic mesoamerica. Archeologists, upon excavating a number of the structures, were amazed to discover layers of buildings dating back to different periods, some almost perfectly preserved, paint and all, due to their lack of exposure to the sun and erosion.

This is a replica of the Rosalia exactly as archeologists found it, paint and all, when the dug tunnels underneath the temple that now is in plain view (see the photo below). This was built on top of another temple, which had been built on top of the tomb and temple that had been built for Kuk' Mo'.
This is the temple under which the Rosalia was buried. That is Mario, my new mexican friend, standing in the picture.
This gives a bit of an idea of how the temples were built on top of each other
This is a drawing of what the site would look like if the layers could be peeled back to reveal what lay underneath.
The names of successors after that point have been lost and are only referred to as ruler 3, ruler 4, etc. until the 7th ruler, who took the trouble to record his place in history in various engravings. As an example of the wide influence that Copán had in mesoamerica, carvings with the name of this 7th ruler have been found as far away as Belize. It was under the 13th ruler that Copán reached its zenith with a population of over 20,000 people and saw the evolution of its sculptural style into what is seen at the site today. The sculptures made under his rule, due to their high level of detail, are considered the pinnacle of Maya artistic achievement.
At its apogee, the city would have spread out all the way across these hills.

This is one of the many stelae that are located all over the site. Each one carries the image of a ruler and is intricately carved on all sides. Usually on the other three sides are carved glyphs that describe the history and accomplishments of that particular ruler.

I've still got some more pics and a few more things to write about- I'll post that stuff tomorrow. Right now I'm late for dinner at Sandra's. Oops.

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