Copan Maya Ruins
|Considered to be the most artistically advanced of the Maya cities|
With almost 120,000 visitors annually, Copan Ruinas is one of the country's most popular attractions, but only about a third of visitors to Honduras' Caribbean coast ever see the ancient Maya city.
For anyone remotely interested in Maya history, bypassing Copan is like visiting Paris and ignoring the Louvre.
Copan, settled as early as 2,000 B.C., was the Maya's most artistically advanced city, the New World equivalent of ancient Athens.
Its most famous monuments include elaborate stelae, the detailed stone statues of Copan 's rulers; a huge hieroglyphic stairway that is the longest known Maya text; and a ball court with stone macaw heads, considered the most artistic ball court in Meso-America.
Copan's Golden Era lasted from about 465 A.D. to perhaps precisely 822 A.D. The date of the collapse is based on what is called Altar L, a monument intended to commemorate U Cit Tok, the reigning ruler.
The altar was left unfinished. Why did this community of 20,000, which created an estimated 4,509 buildings at 1,420 different sites, suddenly dissolve?
War, sudden rebellion, rampant disease due to over overcrowding or the inability of Copan to feed itself because of salinization of the soil are some of the more popular theories.