The first description of Copán appeared in a letter to Philip II, king of Spain, dated March 8, 1576. Since then, innumerable archeologists, tourists, and other visitors have descended on this spectacular Mayan city in northern Honduras. Among a plethora of renowned buildings, stelae, and other artifacts, arguably the most famous is the Hieroglyphic Stairway. The longest text in Precolumbian America, the stairway provides a history of Copán written in stone. Each of 2,200 blocks that form the risers of more than 70 steps bears carved glyphs that record the history of the 16-ruler Copán dynasty formed by Yax K'uk Mo'. The site's stelae, carved in greenish andesite in strikingly high relief, are equally fascinating. One of the most renowned, Altar Q, shows Yax K'uk Mo' passing the baton of office to Yax Pac, the 16th and last great ruler of Copán. (For more on Copán, see Tour Copán with David Stuart and Incidents of Travel.)

Copan Ball-court A-III (center) and the Hieroglyphic Stairway (covered by awning) at Copán.

Map of the Maya World | Incidents of Travel
Tour Copán with David Stuart | Reading Maya Hieroglyphs
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