Hieroglyphic Staircase

Copán: Hieroglyphic Staircase [January 9, 2004]

The balustrades which framed the Hieroglyphic Stairway are thought to have been added by Ruler 15, Smoke Shell. Their "feathered fan" motif is derived from highland Mexican art, and reinforces the martial imagery associated with Teotihuacan themes. Writing about Temple 26, which once stood at the top of this stairway, William Fash continues to discuss the Teotihuacan theme:

"The text that graced the interior of Temple 26 is unique in the annals of Mesoamerican writing. Reconstructed by David Stuart and Barbara Fash in the new Museum of Copán Sculpture, this inscription framed an interior niche in the back of the temple. Stuart notes that it actually conveys the same information in two different scripts running in paired, parallel columns. The right-hand columns are carved in the magnificent 'full-figure' style of Maya hieroglyphic writing. The left-hand columns display symbols derived from the art style of Teotihuacan, prompting Stuart to conclude that it represents a sort of 'Teotihuacan font', an interpretation by a Copán Maya scribe of what Teotihuacan writing would have looked like.

The Teotihuacan theme is also seen in the temple iconography, and the ruler portraits that graced both the Hieroglyphic Stairway and the roof crest of Temple 26. The rulers are portrayed as warriors par excellence, bearing feathered-fringe rectangular shields and lances."

William L. Fash, Scribes, Warriors and Kings: The City of Copán and the Ancient Maya, p. 144-5