added by archaeologs An important Classic Period centre of the Southern Maya located in western Honduras on the Rio Copan, a tributary of the Rio Motagua. Although it is a ceremonial centre of massive proportions, including temple-PYRAMiDS, plazas and a ball court, Copan is best known for its ornate stone carving. 20 elaborately carved stelae, unusual in that they are carved in the round, are clustered in the north end of the site. Buildings are constructed in a locally available greenish volcanic tuff, and almost all have some heavy relief carving in this unique regional style. Access to the Acropolis (the central complex of the site) is gained via the Hieroglyphic Stairway, the 63 risers of which are carved with some 2500 hieroglyphs. J.L. Stephens visited the site in 1839 and ‘purchased’ it for a mere $50. Since then much of the beautiful carving has deteriorated, but the highly detailed pen-and-ink drawings of his colleague Frederick Catherwood still survive and are a great source of iconographic detail.
The Macmillan dictionary of archaeology, Ruth D. Whitehouse, 1983