Located near the border of present day Guatemala, is the ancient Maya city of Copán. A relatively small Mayan site, it dates back nearly 2,000 years and was once the easternmost city-state in the Maya World. Over the course of 400 years, Copán was shaped from a small valley in western Honduras into a great city with pyramids, temples and statues painted with a range of colors: dark red being the most prevalent of all.
It is considered to be the most “artistic” of the Maya cities and is famous for its carved stone sculptures that decorated plazas and temples as well an impressive staircase with the entire history of Copán written on it in Mayan hieroglyphs.
Copán’s Rulers: 16 Kings, One Dynasty
Copán began as an agricultural settlement around 1000 BC. As it grew, the site functioned as the political, civil and religious centre of the Copán Valley as well as the center of a larger territory that covered the southeast portion of the Maya area. From the early 400s to 820 AD, a series of 16 kings ruled Copán, all of them belonging to a single dynasty (family).
The Maya leader Yax Kuk Mo, came from the area of Tikal (Petén) and arrived in the Copán Valley in 427 AD. He started the dynasty that transformed Copán into one of the great Maya cities. The greatest period of Copán, paralleled that of other major Mayan cities and occurred during the Classical period from 300-900 AD.
The Fall of Copán
During the 8th century, the 13th king of Copán, lost a battle against a neighboring kingdom and was beheaded. Thereafter the kingdom gradually declined and eventually disappeared. The decline may have been caused in part by internal revolts, war and disease. At its peak, it is estimated that Copán was home to as many as 20,000 people.
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