Maya 2012 - From Copan to Penn

Posts tagged Maya

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Rosa: Uncovering a Buried Temple

Upon entering the Sculpture Museum in Copan, visitors will be greeted by a reproduction of Rosalila temple. Moon Jaguar, the tenth ruler of Copan, built the temple of the Sun-King on top of the remains of previous temples. It was the most important religious sanctuary at Copan in the late sixth century. The temple was meaningful to the subsequent ruler that built a new temple on top of it. The common practice was to destroy old temples and build new ones on top of the old ones. The ruler, however, decided to not destroy Rosalila. He encased it with stucco and clay, interred it with a burial offering, and built a new one on top of it. The embalming made it possible to conserve the temple over the centuries. 

The temple was discovered in 1989 by archeologist Ricardo Agurcia Fasquelle. Today it is under ground level, but it was measured, making it possible to create a life-size reconstruction that is housed in the museum. Archeologists gave the temple the name Rosalila from its color, violet pink. Rosalila is significant because it is almost intact with its plaster reliefs and a considerable amount of paint remains that made it possible to reconstruct how it looked like in its time of glory. The impressive colors of the temple will make visitors wonder how Copan looked like during the classical period with all of its painted temples with stucco decoration. 

Reproduction of the Rosalila Temple in the Sculpture Museum in Copan

Filed under Copan Copan Sculpture Museum Maya Rosalila Temple Rosa

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Rosa: K’inich Yax K’uk’ Mo’ in Art

In the iconography of the different rulers of Copan, K’inich Yax K’uk’ Mo’, the founder of Copan, can be recognized by several attributes, especially that of warriors from Teotihuacan. For example, Altar Q, exhibited in the Sculpture Museum in Copan, depicts the sixteen rulers of Copan, but K’inich Yax K’uk’ Mo’ is easily recognized, probably investing with power the sixteenth ruler. He wears goggles, which were characteristic of Teotihuacan warriors, has a macaw and a quetzal intermingled on his headdress, and his right arm is covered by what looks like a shield.

Tests done to the body that is believed to be that of K’inich Yax K’uk’ Mo’, show that he had fractures on his right arm, which could have been caused by the handling of the shield. Furthermore, these tests show that he was not from Copan, leading some to believe that he was from Tikal or Teotihuacan. The intermingling of the macaw and the quetzal is an interesting one that could derive from ancient myths. It is known that Quetzals feathers were imported from Guatemala, while Macaws were collected in Copan. Today the scarlet Macaw is the national bird of Honduras, while the Quetzal is the national bird of Guatemala. No other ruler in Copan is depicted with this type of headdress.

Altar Q in the Sculpture Museum in Copan.

Photo by Rosa De Armas

Filed under Altar Q Copan Copan Sculpture Museum K’inich Yax K’uk’ Mo’ Maya Rosa

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Rosa: The Color Red in Maya Civilization

Walking along the Maya ruins in the archeological park of Copan Ruinas, visitors will see how the color red is significant to the Maya civilization. It can be seen in stelae, temples, and was even found in the royal tombs. For example, the bones believed to be that of K’inich Yax K’uk’ Mo,’ Copan’s founder, were painted red with cinnabar, something that would have taken place after the body decomposed. The sub-Jaguar tomb, probably that of the seventh or eighth ruler of Copan, had red walls. Cinnabar and hematite were also found inside offering vessels in the Hunal, Margarita and sub-Jaguar tombs, probably used in rites. What is the significance of this color? Red represented the east, the direction of the rising sun, and symbolized death and rebirth. Death could have been seen as a new birth, and therefore red would have been associated with resurrection. 

Stela C, Copan Ruinas Archeology Park 

Photo by Rosa De Armas

Filed under Copan Hunal tomb K’inich Yax K’uk’ Mo Margarita tomb Rosa rebirth red sub-Jaguar tomb tombs Maya

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Emily: The Ruins

Yesterday we spent the day exploring the ruins of Copan and the Museum of Sculpture. The experience was particularly rewarding because Loa Traxler, the curator of the exhibition, provided us with information about the monuments’ iconography, restorations, and history. It became clear that it was incredibly difficult for me to know exactly what I was looking at because throughout the day Loa provided us with insights that were far from apparent and radically shifted the way I would have experienced the acropolis otherwise.

A number of the temples had significant restorations that one might mistake for their withstanding time. In contrast, there were also some mounds of stones that looked like refuse piles, though they were actually untouched remains. It was the first time I was challenged to visualize a grand structure based solely upon its fallen walls. I was engaged in a lively inner monologue about whether I was more affected by restored structures that somewhat resembled their original forms or remains that attested truthfully to their age, weathering, and collapse.

The ball court was particularly and inexplicably monumental. It was grand yet unassuming with two parallel slopes, simple sculptures, and remnants of markers used in the games themselves. I try to make sense of civilization long past while confronting the severe limitations of such a feat. The ball court and the ruins in general were quite thought-provoking and completely overwhelming.  The importance and visibility of the structures persisted in the basic forms and scale.

Loa took us through the tunnels under the acropolis and explained how structures from earlier rulers had been covered up and used as a foundation for new buildings. From the exterior there was no indication that these earlier structures existed, which made seeing hints of them along the path rather surprising. It was a more-than-meets-the-eye experience that was wonderful in its frustrating and baffling complexity.

Filed under Archeology Cultural Heritage Emily Honduras Maya Copan

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Miranda: Introduction

Greetings from Copan!

My name is Miranda Saylor and I am a junior studying Art History and History. I am from Montclair, New Jersey. I transferred from Barnard College this year, and one of my reasons for coming to University of Pennsylvania was because of the Penn Museum. When applying to transfer, I was aware the museum’s impressive Mesoamerican Gallery and was very interested in studying the collection. In addition to my major, I love studying history, Spanish, and Latin America in general. I initially applied to be a part of the Maya 2012 exhibition team because it was a unique opportunity that combined all of these interests. Like Emily, I am also in Honduras right now, assisting with the documentation of the objects that will be transported to Philadelphia. Today, Dr. Loa Traxler, the curator of the exhibition, gave us a wonderful tour of the ruins, which was a great introduction to the site.  

In addition to our involvement here in Copan, I am the coordinator of our blog. “Maya 2012 – From Copan to Penn” is meant to record the exhibition’s development, but from the unique insider perspective of students working together as a team as well as independently on our individual areas of study. I am also working on the outreach initiative for the exhibition as part of the Maya 2012 Community Advisory Board Committee. The final aspect of my independent study is the research component. Leading up to this trip, I have been reading about Maya civilization in present day Latin America. I hope to incorporate this research with content specific to this exhibition, whether that be ceramics or  portrayals of kings and gods has yet to be decided. So far, working with this exhibition team has been a fantastic experience, and I am excited to see what the rest of this week has in store for us.

Filed under Copán Cultural Heritage Honduras Maya Museums Miranda

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Emily: Introduction

My name is Emily Kim and I am a junior at Penn, double majoring in Art History and Economics. I am originally from Farmington, Connecticut, but I currently live in Boston and Manhattan. I joined this project because it combines my interests in art, culture, and Latin America. I believe that this exhibition on the Maya will bring attention and interest to art forms and cultures about which many people, including myself, know very little.

I am excited and eager to contribute to the project while learning a great deal about museums and Maya civilization. I am currently in Copan to help with the packing of objects that will be in the exhibition. We will primarily assist with the documentation and photography of the objects. This week will be a crash course in the mechanics of an exhibition and addressing issues of cultural heritage.

Additionally, I am researching a group of masks in the exhibition that are used in “The Dance of the Conquest.” The dance itself is quite fascinating, and it chronicles the confrontation between the Ki’che’ Maya and the Conquistador Pedro de Alvarado and his troops in the 1520’s. It is a long and elaborate performance that treads the line between scripted drama and dance. “The Dance of the Conquest” also combines Pre-Columbian traditions with colonial and modern elements. It is largely considered to be the national dance of Guatemala, and it is still performed today at local fairs. It is wonderful to be able to get hands-on experience with an amazing set of objects.

Filed under Cultural Heritage Emily Honduras Maya Museums Copan