Copan Tunnels

Tunnels beneath the East Court and the Acropolis at Copan, Honduras

In order to glimpse some of the earlier building façades buried by later construction, visitors are permitted to enter some of the tunnels beneath the East Court and Str. 10L-16 of the Acropolis.

"The early Acropolis (ca. 400-500 AD) consisted of a huge platform that occupied the bulk of the southeastern quadrant of the later, fully developed Acropolis (its full eastward extent may never be known, owing to destruction by the Río Copán).

To the north a lower platform supported a large complex of multiroomed (unvaulted) masonry administrative/residential buildings, all underlying the later buildings of the northeastern quadrant of the Acropolis."

Robert Sharer, The Ancient Maya, p. 313


Copan Tunnels

Copan: Tunnels

"Individual structures enjoyed almost continuous rebuilding and refurbishment, and much of the Acropolis was transformed by at least two major renewal/construction projects between ca. 500 and 650, a time corresponding roughly to the reigns of the fifth through the eleventh rulers.

Significant structures dated to this period include a major two-tiered platform on the eastern side of the East Court, decorated on all four sides with large plaster and painted masks."

Robert Sharer, The Ancient Maya, p. 311


Copan Tunnels

It felt to us like a time machine inside a time machine.


Copan Tunnels


Copan Tunnels


Copan Tunnels

The remains of a hieroglyphic staircase buried under later construction beneath the area of the East Court of the Acropolis and/or Str. 10L-16.


Copan Tunnels

Detail showing glypys from the buried hieroglyphic stairway.


Copan Tunnels

"Earlier buildings inside the acropolis have plaster mask sculptures on the substructural terraces in the central Peten tradition, although this practice was abandoned by the Late Classic period."

Linda Schele, The Iconography of Maya Architectural Façades during the Late Classic Period, online article


Copan Tunnels


Copan Tunnels

"Although Ante Structure was partially demolished by the final phase of construction in the East Court (ca. 650-800), another building belonging to the middle span of the Acropolis sequence has been discovered sealed beneath the final-phase Str.

10L-16, a large temple that is being excavated by Ricardo Agurcia. This earlier building, known as Rosalila, was a two-story, multiroomed structure.

Its entire façade was decorated with elaborate stucco masks, once painted in brilliant colors."

Robert Sharer, The Ancient Maya, p. 313

NOTE: This photo is from the Copan Sculpture Museum, and is a full-scale reproduction of Rosalila as it might have looked when its colors were intact.


Copan Tunnels

"Rosalila was obviously an especially venerated building, for not only was it maintained and used for an exceptionally long time, but when it was finally abandoned it was carefully preserved and buried intact, unlike most Copan buildings, which were at least partially demolished before being covered by new construction."

Robert Sharer, The Ancient Maya, p. 313


Copan Tunnels

"Inside the buried rooms of Rosalila, Agurcia's excavations have found several termination caches, the most spectacular being a horde of nine beautifully worked eccentric flints." [use your browser's BACK button to return here].

Robert Sharer, The Ancient Maya, p. 313

Rosemary Goodall, a Brisbane physical and chemical sciences PhD student, used infrared analysis technique, FTIR-ATR spectral imaging, to analyze the painted surfaces of the stucco masks that adorn the corners of the Rosalila temple, built in about AD550.

Mrs Goodall found that the Mayans mixed finely ground muscovite mica in their paint, which would have made parts of the building glitter in the sun.

The Australian: Higher Education, Jill Rowbotham, January 23, 2008.