Saturday, April 29, 2006

Copan, Hounduras

The locals like to say that if the Mayan city of Tikal was like New York City - the population and busines capital of the nation - then Copan was like San Francisco. Lots of art and culture, and a whole lot fewer skyscapers. Tikal (apparently, I didn't get there) has some of the tallest pyramids in the Mayan world. Copan's pyramids aren't as high, but are very well preserved and the carvings are fantastic.

But before I get to the ruins, I had to go through a little more modern detritus.

Pyramid 1 at Copan has these incredibly tall, steep steps to the top. The priests who used to trek up thos bad boys would wear 40-50 lbs of jade! Talk about buns of steel!

In the main plaza around Pyramid 1, the king 17 Monkeys erected 17 statues of himself. As silly as this sounds, he was the most powerful and successful of the rulers of Copan... so I guess he deserved it. He's in his medatation pose and his headdress is made of macau feathers. The Mayans were VERY into the macau. Then again, according to my guide, pretty much any animal that showed up in any of the carvings was 'sacred'. Could - just maybe - one or two of the carvings have just been for the hell of it? Nah...

Also in the main plaza - human sacrifice. They would lay the poor fool out on this huge hunk of rock, slice him open and then collect his blood in the grooves. The person chosen for sacrifice was the team captain of the losing side in the Mayan equivalent of soccer. Just goes to show that there is a deep and organic tendency to take goal based sports VERY seriously in Central and South America.

The playing field for sacrifice ball. I know there is a proper name for the game, and calling it 'sacrifice ball' is probably disrespectful... But oh well. The game was played by trying to knock the softball-sized ball into the goal using only the trunk (ya know - the chest and shoulders, silly!).

The Maya didn't invent true arches - notice no capstone. They also didn't invent the wheel. Go figure.

Okay, maybe the Mayans do some sculptures just for fun.

1 comment:

Karla said...

I kept telling Rich how similar the Khmer ruins at Angkor areto the Mayan/Aztec ones.

The arches and step pyramid styles of building, all very similar. Angkor felt like Palenque.

I don't think the Khmer did ritual sacrifice, though.....