Copán’s on-site museum (8 a.m.–3:45 p.m. daily, $7) is surely the best museum of its kind in the Mayan world. Other sites would do well to follow its lead for the sheer variety of original monuments well presented in a spacious and airy environment.
Dominating the large, two-story building is a full-scale replica of the outrageously Technicolor Rosalila Temple, decorated in hues of red, green, and yellow, and offering the visitor a rare opportunity to admire the full grandeur of what the ancient Mayan temples may have looked like during the fullness of the civilization’s splendor.
Entrance to the museum is via the mouth of a serpent. Winding through a dark cavelike tunnel, you are greeted at once as you emerge from the darkness by the arresting view of the Rosalila Temple lit from above by a giant opaque skylight.
On the first floor are various sculptures of skulls, bats, and assorted images of death and violence. Also found here is the splendidly carved Altar Q, showing Yax Pac receiving the ceremonial ruler’s baton from the highly revered first king of the Copán dynasty Yax K’uk’Mo’.
The second floor contains original building facades, stelae, and other carved monuments. A reconstruction of Structure 22A, with its curious woven mat facade, should be open by the time you read this.
© Al Argueta from Moon Guatemala, 3rd Edition. Photos © Al Argueta www.alargueta.com