Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Visitng Copan in Honduras

Ever wonder what the place where we live will be like in 1000 years?  We do.  Some people say the climate is getting warmer and that the ice caps are melting.  If that happens many of the places along the water may be underwater. We visited the amazing Mayan ruins of Copan in Honduras.  The Mayan people created a large, powerful
nation in Central America many, many years ago. We doubt the Mayans ever thought their flourishing city would one day be overtaken by the jungle. Copan is just one of the great Mayan cities with pyramids, temples, and where art flourished. Copan is considered the most artistic of the Mayan cities and sometimes referred to as the “Athens of the Mayan World.” Copan started as an agricultural settlement around 1000 BC and reached its peak between AD 300 and 900. Today all that is left are the impressive stone works.  At
one time the temples were bright and colorful. We wondered what happened to this once great city. We were told that one problem was that they had too many wars and also the city grew so big they could not raise enough food to feed their people. Another problem was disease brought to them by European explorers.  We have some of these problems today: war, people going hungry and disease. 

One of the most impressive sites is the hieroglyphic staircase which contains over 1250 blocks of stone. Hieroglyphics are designs, symbols, and/or pictures used to tell a story instead of words made from an alphabet.  Each stone of the stairway is engraved with part of a Mayan story. When the staircase was discovered many of the stones had been disturbed by nature and people looking for treasure.  At one time the Mayans were very rich and had a lot of gold. When stones were replaced in the
stairway the people didn’t understand the language so the stones were not put back in the proper place. The staircase it like a history book with 1250 loose pages with no page numbers and in a foreign language. Even today we don’t know what all the hieroglyphics mean so we only know part of the story. There is much to learn. 

One of fascinating sites is the ball court. The game was popular throughout Central America and it was more than just a game. It was often part of a religious ceremony where the losers not only lost the game but their lives. The exact rules are not known but the object was to get the rubber ball through one of the rings high on the side wall. The players couldn’t use their hands.  Today the site is quiet but sitting on one of the benches looking around at the impressive stone temples and altars we
wondered what Copan was like when it was full of people and all the buildings were painted bright colors.  At the museum we saw a large model of the Rosalila Temple.  It is beautiful. From pictures we know the rulers and religious people were brightly dressed and often used the bright feathers from the local birds like the beautiful Macaws to decorate their headpieces and clothing. 

Not far from Copan is the Macaw Mountain Bird Park & Nature Reserve where there are many macaws and other colorful birds. The people at the park are working to protect, preserve and breed macaws and then reintroduce them back into the wild.  Several of the bright, beautiful macaws are once again free to fly in and around the great city of Copan.