Stela D

Stela D

"Stela D, dedicated on the hotun of the cycle that began with Stela B, was to be the final stone monument of the great king who raised it.

Its eloquent imagery presents 18-Rabbit [the 13th ruler of Copan] in the guise of an old god.

The king wears an actual mask that covers the greater part of his face, with large oval openings left around his eyes and mouth so that the viewer can identify him within his disguise.

The mask has the features of an aged face, with prominently sagging jowls, wrinkles that surround the lips, and nearly toothless gums. An oval cartouche that fills the forehead of the mask probably held a mirror sign for brightness. "

Elizabeth A. Newsome, Trees of Paradise and Pillars of the World: The Serial Stela Cycle of 18-Rabbit-God K, King of Copan, p. 141-3


Stela D

"Although the imagery of Stela D has a rich and varied array of supernatural participants, God K emerges as the principal protagonist of the dream it recounts.

In all, eight manifestations of God K interact in 18-Rabbit's vision: two appear from the serpent bar in his arms, and six emerge from the serpents that wrap around the king's figure.

Those that materialize from the four vision monsters each bear some omen or object of power, appearing to offer it to the king as an instrument of his vision quest."

Elizabeth A. Newsome, Trees of Paradise and Pillars of the World: The Serial Stela Cycle of 18-Rabbit-God K, King of Copan, p. 149


Stela D

"Particularly suggestive is the distinctive style 18-Rabbit patronized in the design of his monuments, which may indicate that they were created in part for an audience unfamiliar with writing or the esoteric ideologies of Maya rulership.

Predominately iconographic rather than inscriptional, their design departs from the conventions of stela composition both in the Classic Lowlands and in earlier periods at Copan.

The Great Plaza sculptures...rely upon vivid imagery and an almost narrational style of composition to communicate their messages of power.

Images of the king's figure wrap around the sides of the monuments in high relief, while the richly detailed imagery, enacted by a profusion of lively, gesticulating supernaturals, illustrates the story of the king's divine empowerment with an explicitness that is unprecedented in public monumental art."

Elizabeth Newsome, Trees of Paradis and Pillars of the World: The Serial Stela Cycle of '18-Rabbit-God K,' King of Copan, p. 61


Stela D

God K's (K'awiil) head appears from within the jaws of a stylized serpent. Part of the diagnostic flaming axe in K'awiil's forehead has chipped off.


Stela D

"Yet 18-Rabbit's reign also marks a turning point in Copan's history, a paradoxical moment of splendor and immanent decline.

His career spans the end of the Middle Classic and the formative years of the Late Classic Period, when Copan began its greatest phase of demographic and political growth.

Like Smoke-Imix, 18-Rabbit reigned for an exceptional number of years, and the pattern of his activities implies that he shared his predecessor's ambition to expand on the powers and prestige of his office.

Under his patronage, the arts flourished as never before, and he is credited with constructing many of the site's greatest architectural works: the final construction phase of the Ball Court, Temple 22, and the city's northern expanse of plazas.

However, 18-Rabbits regency also signals the beginning of trends that would eventually lead to the excesses and environmental difficulties of the later eighth century, including overpopulation and political unrest.

The projects of his career...suggest that 18-Rabbit was a showman, an ambitious king who built on the attraction that opulent art and religious spectacle could provide for his capital city.

Yet his flamboyance and self-confidence may also have led to his downfall, precipitating his conflict with Quirigua and resulting in the defeat of his kingdom and his own death on the sacrificial stone."

Elizabeth Newsome, Trees of Paradis and Pillars of the World: The Serial Stela Cycle of '18-Rabbit-God K,' King of Copan, p. 48


Stela D Altar

Stela D Altar

"Baudez (1994:46) suggests that Stela D and the zoomorphic altar placed before it form an image analogous to that of Stela C's west side: the king appears as the Sun, shown in relation to a monster representing the earth. The ruler's image, he suggests, might symbolize the aging Sun sinking into the underworld."

Elizabeth A. Newsome, Trees of Paradise and Pillars of the World: The Serial Stela Cycle of 18-Rabbit-God K, King of Copan, p. 146

This side of the altar represents the skeletal version of the earth monster.


Stela D Altar

Stela D Altar

This is the other side of Stela D's altar, the side that the image of Waxaklahum-Ubah-K'awil's image faces as it looks out over the plaza.

Tis side of the altar represents the earth monster in its fully fleshed form.