Link to enlarge K6042 (Las Bocas - Ceramic Vessel) THE FOUNDATION RESEARCH DEPARTMENT

Manual of the Monuments of Copán, Honduras
Copyright © 2010 Asociación Copán
Edited by Ricardo Agurcia Fasquelle and Vito Véliz

Copán Emblem Glyph

Table of Contents

Presentation - Ricardo Agurcia Fasquelle
Research on the Main Plaza - Santos Vito Veliz Ramírez
Introduction to Maya Hieroglyphic Writing - Dorie Reents-Budet and Peter Biro
Rulers and Monuments - Ricardo Agurcia Fasquelle
Pictorial Narratives and hieroglyphics on the monuments of Copan - Dorie Reents-Budet
THE MONUMENTS OF THE MAIN SQUARE - Peter Biro and Dorie Reents-Budet
Stelas A, 4, E, B, C, D, F, H, and I
Altars and sculptures of Stelas 4, E, and G
Stela J
Stela 3
Altar K
Stelas 1, 2, M, and N
Base of Stela N



The 1980's and 1990's were characterized by an effervescence in the archaeological, epigraphical and art studies of the ancient Maya. Copan was one of the main stages for this drama. In March 1989, the Maya Hieroglyphic Workshop at the University of Texas in Austin, which had become the principal forum for these topics, focused its work on Copan. With this the dynastic history of the site gave an enormous leap forward and took the familiar form it has today.

Some years earlier, Linda Schele had started a series of very brief essays called The Copan Notes which discussed the advances made in the decipherment of the hieroglyphic writings at the site. These notes were somewhat informal, but were widely distributed and available both to the scholar and the curious layman. I was one of the last and looked with admiration at the vertiginous rhythm with which the carved stones of Copan revealed secrets kept silent for millennia. As time went on and with Linda's tragic loss in 1998, still young and with a promising future, these writings went from a roar to a whisper and from the open fields to the obscure corridors of intellectual castles in other nations. The Copan Notes, the "student newspaper", was substituted by elegant and expensive publications. The resulting silence was oppressive and the knowledge of our own history, written in stone, harder to come by.

This notebook hopes to give life again to that spirit of knowledge-at-everybody's-reach, so often professed by Linda Schele, and intends to fill some of the void left by her departure. Not unlike the The Copan Notes and the notebooks for the workshops at the University of Texas, this manual does not pretend to be "the final and definitive work" on the Copan monuments. Instead, it is hoped that it will be a flexible, didactic instrument which will allow for corrections and modifications, as knowledge advances, and which may promote dialogue and interchange among those interested. It is an effort to collect information dispersed in many places and reflect an educated opinion about the current knowledge of the decipherment and interpretation of these monuments. We hope that it will be available both to the scholar and those that are just curious so that we may all enjoy it.

This project has brought together a very special work group. Some, like Peter Mathews, Dorie Reents-Budet and Vito Véliz are veterans of the epigraphic revolution and close friends of Linda Schele's. Others, like Peter Biro, are young, promising scholars. Ana Lucia and Carlos Gastélum have contributed mostly on graphics and computer aspects, always putting their best foot forward. We are also grateful for the support provided by Elizabeth Nutter de Valladares and Heydi Galván at the Copán Association. All good things found by the reader in this notebook are the result of their efforts.

The Copan Association is grateful for the support of the Copan Maya Foundation (CMF), the Foundation for the Advancement of Mesoamerican Studies, Inc. (FAMSI) and the Honduran Institute of Anthropology and History (IHAH), which have made this work possible.These last two institutions have allowed us the use of technical drawings of the Copan monuments made by an extraordinary group of artists, especially Anke Blanck, Anne Dowd, Barbara Fash and Linda Schele, to whom we are extremely grateful.

This first Volume of The Copan Monuments Notebook encompasses those monuments in the Great Plaza of the Main Group of the site. It is hoped the work will continue with two more volumes, one focusing on the Acropolis monuments and the other on those monuments in the valley. In order to be accessible to a wide audience, the texts are presented in Spanish and English. The translations have been made largely by Vito Véliz.

This Volume starts with four brief essays which sum up general and critical information for understanding Copan's monuments:
  1. The first one, written by Vito Véliz, sums up the history of archaeological investigations in the Great Plaza.
  2. The second, written by Dorie Reents-Budet and Peter Biro, presents a general introduction to Maya hieroglyphic writing.
  3. The third essay is a summary of the Copan dynasty and the monuments assigned to each one of the sixteen monarchs.
  4. The fourth one, written by Dorie Reents-Budet, discusses the pictorial and epigraphic narratives of the monuments of the Great Plaza seen as a whole.

These essays are followed by the main body of this notebook, which is a description and analysis of the monuments of the Great Plaza , written by Peter Biro and Dorie Reents-Budet. In general, the monuments are ordered and described in groups, according to their geographical location within the plaza. The description begins with those monuments in the northern section of the Plaza and ends with those in the southern sector.

For each monument, we provide a summary of its iconographic, epigraphic and historic meanings, followed by photographs and drawings of each side of the monument. Next comes a table consisting of the hieroglyphic text with its transcriptions, presented block by block. In the center is the drawing of the hieroglyphic block, while on the sides appear a translation of the glyphs presented in five versions: the first (in boldface letters) is the literal transcription, the second and third (in italics) are the transliterations (or phonetic translations), the fourth is in English and the fifth in Spanish. At the end of each section, there is a free translation of the entire text for that monument. Not all monuments are presented in this study and readers may also notice other inconsistencies in it. These result from the fact that we have not had at hand the same amount of information for all monuments and have not had the resources to complete that information in a fully standardized manner. Nevertheless, we chose to move ahead with this notebook in its incomplete condition in order to make it available to all Hondurans as soon as possible. It is intended to be a flexible, didactic instrument to which information can easily be added as additional sections are finished and to which changes can easily be made as more advances are made in deciphering Maya hieroglyphic writing and interpreting the iconography. In this manner, we hope to continually improve this manual and are grateful to those who send us their comments (these can be sent to: ).

Any use of this manual for sale or profit is strictly prohibited.

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Part  1 – Introduction & North Section, Stelas A, 4, and E  (6.76 MB)
Part  2 – North Section, Stelas E and B  (5.71 MB)
Part  3 – North Section, Stelas C, D, and F  (7.37 MB)
Part  4 – North Section, Altars G and Stelas H and I  (5.07 MB)
Part  5 – East and Central Sections  (8.01 MB)
Part  6 – South Section  (8.59 MB)

The use of this Manual of the Monuments of Copán, Honduras is freely available to all interested parties for scholarly study.

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