I set my alarm for six o’clock in the morning so that I would wake up early enough to hear and see the sights of the town from the hotel’s balcony with coffee in hand. I knew that many of the locals would not be walking the cobblestones for a while, but I could smell the fresh bread and coffee, which indicated to me that Copán was waking up. I watched the dew on the garden flowers, and the eerily foggy mountains in the background played peekaboo with what was sure to be a glorious sunrise. While daydreaming, I could only think of what it would have been like during the Dynasty of Copán, and I got goose bumps knowing that I would visit this beautiful place for the second time since I was five years old in just a few hours. I was too young then to understand what has been unearthed from such a complex culture and was more interested in the animals. Now I am able to catch up with this culture again with information gathered through books and shows depicting these great people — my people.
Before visiting the archeological site, we had a lecture on the stelae of Copán and the interpretation of the Maya hieroglyphics by Professor David W. Sedat. It was incredible to think that the Maya settled in the area as early as 2000 BC. Dr. Sedat was the field director at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology and led the team that discovered the royal tomb of the founder of the ancient Maya city of Copán. He has been working in Copán for more than 30 years and lives there with his wife.
We arrived at the UNESCO World Heritage archeological site of Copán at around 10 a.m., and it was as magical as I remembered it. The forest was lush and the leaves were so many colors of green, reminiscent of broccoli, celery, honeydew melon and cooked spinach. It was yummy, I was so excited; I wanted to see it all!
Our master leader Julio, who lives in Copán with his family as well, said that local and international archeologists are always excavating the site. Everywhere we walked, we could see shovels and buckets filled with earth, clues proving that they are still trying to uncover as much as possible. We enjoyed the impressive 63-step stairway with more than 2,500 hieroglyphs and the masterfully carved steles. We walked past the ball courts, which we now know were more than just games to the Maya; they were spiritual and sacrificial games representing the difference between life and death, depending on whether you won or lost the game.
It is impressive to think that at its peak, Copán was home to nearly 30,000 Maya and that it was abandoned due to warfare and misuse of the land. There were mounds everywhere I looked, and Julio mentioned that they were all ruins that need to be unearthed. From site to site, trees were on top of ruins and their roots unearth these large and ancient masonry platforms. The voices of 30,000 have been replaced with howler monkey and bird songs overhead in the forest canopy and the persistent croaking of frogs telling us that the rains are upon us. The cool breeze swayed the trees and echoed the open tunneled walls of these ancient ruins, making me think that with luck, I would be able to see the whole site unearthed in another 31 years.
For more information about The Maya and More program, visit: http://www.roadscholar.org/n/program/summary.aspx?id=1%2BJB%2B86