Str. 22a

Structure 22A: Popol Nah or Council House

On the west side of 18 Rabbit's temple at Copan stood the Popul Nah, or 'Council House,' an identification first made by Barbara Fash.

As with the Popol Nah we saw at Waxaktun, great mats carved in mosaic stone decorate the upper surfaces of the building.

At Copan, the upper wall also displays portraits of lords seated in majesty upon the glyphs that might represent localities in the domain.

Like the council house at Waxaktun, the working space of this meeting place was not the close interior of the shrine but a space outside, under the sun and stars. A wide porch in front of the house provided space for the council to meet.

Barbara Fash also discovered that the location had a second great function—the teaching and performance of sacred dance. A second low platform, much longer and wider than the porch, lay in front of the Popol Nah, all along the western side of the East Court.

It is littered with the remains of stone censers. From this platform, dancers could easily move out onto the terraces that run along the south side of Temple 11, and along the north side of the Acropolis.

The ceremonial view of the audiences standing within the East and West Courts may have been restricted, but the pageants that began at the Popol Nah could expand into the far larger and more visible plaza spaces north of the Acropolis.

Freidel, Schele, Parker, Maya Cosmos, p. 152


Str. 22a

"Alternating with the mats on the front and back sides of the building were a total of 9 human figures, each seated cross-legged over a large hieroglyph.

The hieroglyphs appear to be place-names, possibly the names of once-thriving communities in the kingdom. Above the figures were a series of glyphs which read ahau lil (governance, or act of governing), a symbol much in keeping with the proposed function of this edifice.

The cheiftains portrayed on Structure 10L-22A came to the aid of their ruler, and of their kingdom, at one of its darkest hours.

The date of the building's dedication was the Period Ending 9.15.15.0.0 9 Ahau 18 Xul, or 12 June AD 746, as suggested by the numerous examples of '9 Ahau' glyphs fallen from the façade, in keeping with stratigraphic and stylistic evidence.

This was only eight years after the death of Ruler 13 [18-Rabbit or Waxaklahun-Ubah-K'awil] the hands of Cauac Sky of Quiriguá.

To have their esteemed god-king captured and beheaded by a ruler whose fiefdom had been subservient to Copán was doubtless a shattering defeat, one that would have shaken confidence in the entire religious and political system.

The succeeding Ruler 14's apparent response was to draw in his governors and lords to a public meeting house, to portray them prominently on the building's façade, and pay homage to their role in their communities', and their state's, future."

William L. Fash, Scribes, Warriors and Kings: The City of Copán and the Ancient Maya, p. 131-134


Str. 22a

"The best clues to the identity of the valley statesmen portrayed on Structure 10L-22A are the toponymic glyphs, and the distinctive collar and headdress elements that they wear. "

William L. Fash, Scribes, Warriors and Kings: The City of Copán and the Ancient Maya, p. 134


Str. 22a

"In his investigations of the royal residential area on the south flank of the Acropolis, Project Co-Director E. Wyllys Andrews V of Tulane University found that three different buildings bore full-figure fish representations of the same size and style as the fish glyph on the south side of Structure 10L-22A.

The position of the royal residential area on the south side of the Acropolis, and the placement of the toponym with the fish main-sign on the south façade of the council house, suggests that the placement of the toponyms around the side of Structure 10L-22A may correspond to their geographic location within the Copán kingdom.

The large (Type 4) sites at the eastern and western end of the Copán roads, and Wendy Ashmore's North Group, seem excellent candidates for the 'seats' of some of these statesmen."

William L. Fash, Scribes, Warriors and Kings: The City of Copán and the Ancient Maya, p. 134

Str. 22a

"The implications of Structure 10L-22A for the study of Maya statecraft and political evolution are twofold.

First, they suggest that governors and subsidiary lords were of sufficient importance to wield strong authority in the fate of large Classic Maya city-states, particularly in political crisis.

Second, if one of the fundamental characteristics of statehood is the separation of political institutions from kinship lines, then from AD 746, if not before, Copán was at that stage of development.

The statesmen are identified not by their personal names, but rather by the name of the subdivision of the kingdom which they represent.

This formal set of jurisdictions and representatives implies that Late Classic Maya political organization at Copán was moving towards more institutionalized forms of government which cut across traditional kinship lines and interests.

At this juncture, it is not possible for us to determine how successful Ruler 14's strategy was.

The inscriptions tell us only that he died within three years of completing Structure 10L-22A, and was succeeded by Ruler 15 (formerly referred to as Smoke Shell).

The monumental record indicates that Ruler 15's strategy was the exact opposite of the decentralized, modest work of Ruler 14.

Ruler 15 poured all his efforts into the refurbishment of Structure 10L-27, including the world's largest hieroglyphic stairway.

The purpose of this monument was to emphasize the glorious days (and rulers) of the kingdom, and in the process lend legitimacy to Ruler 15 himself as the sole inheritor of the supernatural and secular power of the Copán throne.

Did he do this because of renewed support from the lords, won at the cost of the prestige of his predecessor? Or was Structure 10L-26 his reaction to the growing power and influence of those formerly subordinate nobles? These are among the new questions which our research has posed, and which are at present not yet resolved."

William L. Fash, Scribes, Warriors and Kings: The City of Copán and the Ancient Maya, p. 135