Quirigua Mayan Ruins (World Heritage)

By | September 29, 2021

The ruins of Quiriguá were once an important place of worship of the Maya. Temples, steles and stone sculptures give an insight into the Mayan civilization, whose heyday was between the 6th and 9th centuries.

Quirigua Mayan Ruins: Facts

Official title: Mayan ruins and Quirigua Archaeological Park
Cultural monument: Ruins of a Mayan cult site with temples, steles and zoomorphic blocks; i.a. Steles D, F and E with a height between 7.6 and 18.6 m
Continent: America
Country: Guatemala
Location: Quiriguá, on the Motagua River, southwest of the Gulf of Honduras, north of Copán (Honduras)
Appointment: 1981
Meaning: an impressive source for studying Mayan culture

Quirigua Mayan Ruins: History

250 BC BC-300 AD probably first settlement
725 Accession to the throne from Cauac Heaven
746-810 twelve steles, four zoomorphic blocks with mythological animal representations
Middle of the 9th century End of the historical tradition
1840 Rediscovery by the explorer John Lloyd Stephens
1881 Investigations by Alfred P. Maudslay
1921 Discovery of the complex called “Group A” with temple and stele T and U
1979 Restoration work by archaeologists from the University of Pennsylvania

Sentinels in the tropical forest

“No doubt a great city once stood here; their name lost, their history unknown… ”With these words, the researcher John Lloyd Stephens lamented the condition of the former Mayan site of Quiriguá in the middle of the last century. Around one hundred kilometers from the Guatemalan port of Puerto Barrios, it was only known to local farmers and not to the growing number of wealthy explorers. Three farmers who owned the land including the Mayan cult site tried to negotiate a purchase price for the ruins with Stephens. But opinions differed on the purchase price. “From hazy conversations with strangers who had never seen the ruins, they imagined that all the governments of Europe were vying for their property; besides, they persisted in the foolish belief that the author was acting on behalf of his government; and if the President of the United States of America wanted the stones, he’d have to pay $ 20,000 for them, ”Stephens noted in his travel notes. The excavations did not begin until the end of the 19th century. After the North American group United Fruit Company had acquired larger land, the Plaza Central and Plaza Ceremonial were temporarily enclosed by banana trees. Today they are surrounded by dense evergreen jungle, albeit exposed. According to programingplease, the creation of a national park to protect the Mayan culture is thanks to the financial support of the United Fruit Company, which was nevertheless called “El Pulpo” by the locals, an “octopus”.

On the edge of the Sierra del Espíritu Santo, the Maya place is a green oasis, hot and humid. An incessant chirping of every pitch can be heard between the sweeping Ceiba and Amate trees and huge blocks of stone. Round-tailed sparrows watch over their eyrie. Toucans with white spots on the throat and chest, whose massive beaks shine sunflower yellow, have conquered their own piece of earth in the midst of the “stone chronicle of the Mayas”. Meanwhile, somewhere in the undergrowth, a spotted ocelot is catching prey. The Mayans made crouching animal monsters with human heads in their throats from huge blocks of stone. More than ten meters high steles stand like sentinels in the tropical rainforest. Although their religious significance remains in the dark, they represent the pinnacle of Mayan sculpture. Nine stone paintings appear in the main square, which date from the 8th and 9th centuries, as it were to grow out of the forest floor. They are made of reddish sandstone that was broken on the banks of the Motagua River. The stone was then artistically hewn and adorned with religious and secular rulers – some wear chin beards and huge flowing feathers – as well as hieroglyphics.

From these pictorial characters my archaeologists can deduce that Quiriguá was once a very important ceremonial site. It was founded at the turn of the 5th to the 6th century by immigrants from Copán, only 50 kilometers away in what is now Honduras. The economic and political dependence on Copán ended when the ruler Cauac-Himmel, who had celebrated his enthronement in the land of “Eighteen Rabbits” in 725, decided to create an independent empire. After a victorious campaign against Copán, the former liege lord, Eighteen Rabbits, was captured. On May 3, 737 – as noted by the inscription on the famous Estela E – the head of the successor to “Rauch-Jaguar” was cut off without further ado.

The independence achieved not only encouraged lively construction activity, but also the skills of the stonemasons. In the following decades they formed gigantic steles in honor of Cauac-Himmel. In addition to these impressive steles with mythical motifs, there are only a few pyramids and temples such as the partially exposed and restored main temple, the “Acropolis”. But who knows, because traces of the Maya still lie beneath the humpbacked earthen walls, which are overgrown by a network of tropical greens.

Quirigua Mayan Ruins (World Heritage)