The first place you’ll come to as you walk along the forest path from the main entrance to the park is the Great Plaza. You’ll see a variety of stelae in a spacious grassy area, which was once paved.
Traces of red paint (created by mixing mercury sulfate and tree resins) can still be seen on Stela C, which dates to A.D. 730. Most of the stelae date to the rule of Smoke Imix (A.D. 628–695) and 18 Rabbit (A.D. 695–738). The latter ruler is depicted on Stelae A, B, C, D, F, H, and 4.
The plaza’s standout is Stela A (A.D. 731). Among its 52 glyphs are the emblem glyphs of Palenque, Tikal, Calakmul, and Copán, establishing Copán’s position as one of the great cities of the Mayan world. As with many other important monuments, the original now resides in the Sculpture Museum.
Another beautifully carved monument is Stela H, depicting what looks to be a woman wearing a skirt with a leopard skin underneath, wrists weighed down with jewelry, and an intricate headdress. It may have been 18 Rabbit’s wife.
Copán’s ball court is south of the Great Plaza after you cross what is known as the Central Plaza (Plaza Central). Completed in A.D. 738, it was the third ball court to have been erected at the site. There are three elaborate macaw heads on each side. It is one of the most often-photographed buildings in Copán.
© Al Argueta from Moon Guatemala, 3rd Edition. Photos © Al Argueta www.alargueta.com