North facade of Temple 11 with Stela N in front

"Yax-Pac [the 16th and last ruler of Copan] designed the ground floor of this temple with a wide east-west gallery crossed by a smaller north-south corridor.

In this way he engineered an entrance to the building from each of the four cardinal directions--north, east, south, and west.

Just inside each of these four doors, panels facing one another record historical events important to Yax-Pac's political strategy and the dedication of the temple itself.

What is curious about each pair of texts is that one is in normal reading order, while the other facing text reads in reverse order as if you are seeing a mirror image. It is as if you were standing between the glass entry doors of a bank--the writing on the door in front of you would read normally while the writing behind you would be reversed. If you were standing outside, however, the texts on both doors would read in the proper order.

In Temple 11, of course, the walls are not transparent, but this made no difference, since the audience addressed by these texts consisted of the ancestors and the gods. Apparently, they could read through solid walls.

Furthermore, each pair of texts is designed to be read from a different direction starting with the north door: To read them in proper order (that is, "outside the bank doors") the reader would have to circulate through all four of the directions.

This attention to the "point of view" of the gods is not unusual in Maya art."

Schele and Freidel, A Forest of Kings: The Untold Story of the Ancient Maya, p. 326-7

NOTE: The so-called "Speaker's Stand" can be seen about three-quarters up the stairway. Giant Pauahtunob were positioned at each corner of the temple to hold up the "sky register" decorating the temple roof. The head of one of these mythical beings now rests at the eastern base of the temple.

Copan Stela N

Stela N

Stela N, built by the 15th Ruler of Copan, stands in front of Temple 11. It was erected by Smoke Shell, the 15th ruler of Copan.

He also built the Hieroglyphic Stairway as well as Stela M at the base of the Hieroglyphic Stairway.

Smoke Shell was the father of Yax Pac (or Yax Pasah), the last ruler of Copán and builder of Temple 11 which stands behind this stela.

Stela N

Stela N