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Copán or Oxwitik is a complex site of Mayan ruins in Copán Ruinas, Copán Department, Honduras, as the principal capital of the kingdom in the Classic period in the 5th century AD until the 9th century AD. The city lies in the most southeastern part of the Mesoamerican cultural region in border with the Isthmo-Colombian cultural region and almost surrounded by non-Maya people.

Copan is inhabited by 20,000 people for over 2,000 years in the Early Preclassic period up to the Postclassic period and covers an area of more than 250 sq kilometers (100 sq Miles). The peak density in central Copán is between 6,000 people up to 9,000 people in an area of 0.6 sq kilometers (0.23 sq mi).

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The city developed a distinctive sculpture style in the Mayan tradition of lowland and powerful cities that ruled a large empire in the southern region of Maya. Most of the east side of the acropolis has been eroded by the Copan River, although the river has been diverted by the Honduran government to protect the site from further damage.

The city suffered a major political disaster in 738 when Uaxaclajuun Ub'aah K'awiil as one of the greatest kings in the history of the Copan dynasty was captured and executed by the former subordinate Quiriguá K'ak 'Tiliw Chan Yopaat (Cauac Sky). This unexpected defeat resulted in a 17-year vacancy in the city and was subject to Quiriguá.


The fertile Copán River Valley is a farming place before the first stone architecture was built in the region in the 9th century BC. The predominant history of Copán is found in texts, but none is older than 426 AD. An inscription refers to 321 BC, but there is no text that explains the significance of this date.

An event in Copán occurred 208 days earlier in 159 AD at an unknown location with a figure known as "Foliated Ajaw". This same person is mentioned also in the skull carvings of a peccari found in Tomb 1 which says to take action on the stela in 376 AD.

The city was rebuilt by K'inich Yax K'uk 'Mo' as the capital of the new Mayan empire. This coup was organized and launched from Tikal. The text records the arrival of a soldier named K'uk 'Mo' Ajaw where the city's throne in 426 AD was given to K'inich Yax K'uk 'Mo' and ochk'in kaloomte "Lord of the West".

K'inich Yax K'uk 'Mo' may have originated from Tikal and possibly sponsored by Siyaj Chan K'awill II as the 16th ruler in the succession of the Tikal dynasty. K'inich Yax K'uk 'Mo' may have legitimized the claim of being ruler by marrying the Copan royal family. The city remains in close contact with Tikal.


Copan is famous for a series of portraits stelae mostly placed along the city center plaza, acropolis, pyramids, and palaces. This site has a great court to play the Mesoamerican ballgame. Sites divided into various groups are the Main Group and the Cemetery Group at the core site linked by the sacbe to the Sepulturas Group in the northeast.

Central Copán has a density of 1449 structures per sq kilometer (3,750/sq mi), whereas in the larger Copán overall has a density of 143 per sq kilometer (370/sq mi) over an area of 24.6 sq kilometers (9.5 sq mi). the Main Group is the core of the ancient city and covers an area of 600x300 meters (1,970x980 ft).

The main feature of the city's core is the Acropolis as a royal complex on the south side and a group of smaller structures and connecting the plazas to the north including the Hieroglyphic Stairway and the ballcourt. The Monument Plaza contains the concentration of the largest sculpted monument on this site.

The Sepulturas Group is connected by a sacbe or causeway that runs southwest to the Monument Plaza in the Main Group. The Sepulturas Group consists of a number of refurbished buildings and many elite residences featuring stone benches, some of which have carved decorations and a number of tombs.

Altar Q is a monument dedicated by the king of Yax Pasaj Chan Yopaat in 776 and has each of the first 16 kings of the Copan dynasty carved around its side. The hieroglyphic text is written on the upper surface relating to the founding of the dynasty in 426-427 AD. The founder of the K'inich dynasty Yax K'uk 'Mo' transferred the power to Yax Pasaj. This portrayal of political succession tells much about the Early Classic Maya culture.

The Motmot Capstone is a inscribed stone placed above the tomb under Structure 10L-26. The finely sculpted face with portraits of the first two kings of the Copan dynasty are K'inich Yax K'uk 'Mo' and K'inich Popol Hol. The skeletons and names of hieroglyphs from mythological locations beneath the feet of the two kings placed them in the supernatural realm. The tombstones have two dates on 435 AD and 441 AD

Xukpi Stone is a monument of dedication from one of the early phases of the 10L-16 temple built in honor of K'inich Yax K'uk 'Mo'. This monument has not been fully studied where styles and sentences are unusual. Originally it was used as a bench and dated in monuments attributed to the dedication of the burial of the temple or tomb, perhaps the tomb of K'inich 'Yax K'uk' Mo ', which was found under the same structure. Copán

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Location: Copán Ruinas, Copán Department, Honduras

Routes and public transport: Flights to Ramón Villeda Morales International Airport in San Pedro Sula City, then use the bus to Copán Ruinas Town for 193 kilometers. The site's core ruins are located 1.6 kilometers (1 mile) from Copán Ruinas or a 20-minute walk.

Advice: Copán Ruinas is a small town that is easy to navigate and safe to walk the cobbled streets anywhere including walking to the ruins, but standard precautions apply. Mototaxis will take you anywhere in the city for a small fee. The city has all types of accommodation mostly located within two blocks of Parque Central.

Budget rooms include Hotel Marjenny, Don Moises Hotel, Casa Lastenia, Hotel San Jose, La Iguana Azul, Hotel Ch'orti and Full Monte. Mid-range rooms include Hotel Graditas Mayas, Hotel Marina Copán, Hotel Plaza Copán, La Casa de Café, ViaVia Hostel and Hotel los Jaguares. Splurge rooms include La Casa Rosada, Posada Real de Copán and Terramaya.

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