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Saturday Art and Architecture: Sepulturas at Copán

Plaza B, Internal area of Sepulturas

Lying not far from the ceremonial main group of Copán is a group of residential structures that show kitchen and sleeping areas, in addition to benches with elaborate carvings associated with the royal family. Unlike the main group, the Sepulturas [tomb] contains residential features, while its objects of ceremony and ritual have been removed to the archaeological museum nearby, to preserve those formal and palatial structures. There seem to have been traders also included in the group, people from outside the area who may well have moved outside the Copán region to carry on trade with other Mayan territories.

The Sepulturas Group was one of the residential wards and suburban centers of varying sizes and complexities found in the Copan Valley. It was second in importance only to the group that was found where the modern town of Copan Ruinas has since been constructed. Some of the dwellings found at Las Sepulturas have been dated to Early Preclassic times and to Middle Preclassic times. The complex featured large cobble-built platforms and several wealthy tombs. Another interesting feature at Las Sepultas is the evidence of a non-Maya population living in this important sector. Whether they were specialized merchants or political agents from abroad is still under debate, what is for certain is that they were important players in the affairs of state at Copan auring the period starting around 800 A.D.

(snip)

This group was connected to the Great Plaza by a causeway, so there are strong reasons to believe Las Sepulturas may have been a residential area, where rich and powerful nobles once lived. One huge, luxurious residential compound seems to have housed some 250 people in 40 or 50 buildings arranged around 11 courtyards. The principal structure, called the House of Bacabs, where a high ranking political figure whose glyphic title reads “aj k’uhuun” is believed to have lived there. HIs house had outer walls carved with the full sized figures of 10 males in fancy feathered headdresses; inside was a huge bench covered with hieroglyphic writing.

Figures of scribes and high position are found in the ‘Scribes’ Palace’ and similar structures at the Sepulturas group. Figures of Mayan religious worship include those who appear to have been scholarly in their practices. Religious or ceremonial practice is seen included in long recitations which had to be learned over time and by long dedication to the stories, or histories, of the past as it was understood:

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Saturday Art and Architecture: Sepulturas at Copán

Carved bench in residence

 

Plaza B, Internal area of Sepulturas

Lying not far from the ceremonial main group of Copán is a group of residential structures that show kitchen and sleeping areas, in addition to benches with elaborate carvings associated with the royal family. Unlike the main group, the Sepulturas [tomb] contains residential features, while its objects of ceremony and ritual have been removed to the archaeological museum nearby, to preserve those formal and palatial structures. There seem to have been traders also included in the group, people from outside the area who may well have moved outside the Copán region to carry on trade with other Mayan territories.

The Sepulturas Group was one of the residential wards and suburban centers of varying sizes and complexities found in the Copan Valley. It was second in importance only to the group that was found where the modern town of Copan Ruinas has since been constructed. Some of the dwellings found at Las Sepulturas have been dated to Early Preclassic times and to Middle Preclassic times. The complex featured large cobble-built platforms and several wealthy tombs. Another interesting feature at Las Sepultas is the evidence of a non-Maya population living in this important sector. Whether they were specialized merchants or political agents from abroad is still under debate, what is for certain is that they were important players in the affairs of state at Copan auring the period starting around 800 A.D.

(snip)

This group was connected to the Great Plaza by a causeway, so there are strong reasons to believe Las Sepulturas may have been a residential area, where rich and powerful nobles once lived. One huge, luxurious residential compound seems to have housed some 250 people in 40 or 50 buildings arranged around 11 courtyards. The principal structure, called the House of Bacabs, where a high ranking political figure whose glyphic title reads “aj k’uhuun” is believed to have lived there. HIs house had outer walls carved with the full sized figures of 10 males in fancy feathered headdresses; inside was a huge bench covered with hieroglyphic writing.

Figures of scribes and high position are found in the ‘Scribes’ Palace’ and similar structures at the Sepulturas group. Figures of Mayan religious worship include those who appear to have been scholarly in their practices. Religious or ceremonial practice is seen included in long recitations which had to be learned over time and by long dedication to the stories, or histories, of the past as it was understood.

Feasts are usually organized by religious brotherhoods, with the greatest expenses being for the higher charges. Similarly, in the pre-Spanish kingdom of Maní, some religious feasts seem to have been sponsored by wealthy and preeminent men,[22] perhaps reflecting a general practice in Postclassic and earlier kingdoms. Through the feasts, capital could be redistributed in food and drink. The continual and obligatory drinking, negatively commented on by early as well as contemporary outsiders, establishes community, not only among the human participants, but also between these and the deities.

Both in recent times and in the Classic Period, more complex rituals would include music and dance, processions, and theatrical play. Nowadays, the performance of important dances and dance dramas (not always religious ones) often takes place on the feast of the patron saint of the village and on certain set occasions dictated by the Catholic Calendar (such as Corpus Christiand the ‘May Cross’). For the late Postclassic period, Landa mentions specific dances executed during either the New Year rituals (e.g., the xibalba okot ‘dance of Xibalba’) or the monthly feasts (e.g., the holkan okot ‘dance of the war chiefs’).

The theatrical impersonation of deities and animals (a general Mesoamerican practice), including the wayob (were-animals),[23] was part of pre-Hispanic dramatic performances. Ritual humor (often a vehicle for social criticism) was part of these events, involving such actors as opossums, spider monkeys, and the aged Bacabs, with women sometimes being cast in erotic roles.[24]The god most often shown dancing during the Classic period is the Tonsured Maize God, a patron of feasting.

The Mayan rituals were passed down by uncomprehending early explorers and missionaries who had the intention of converting the colonies they took to their own Christian religion. Mesoamerica still retains some of its earlier character mingled with the imposed ceremonies of Catholic ritual.

Residences show decorative work.

Several graves such as this are located in Sepulturas.

Back area of Sepulturas, less elite residences.

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Ruth Calvo

Ruth Calvo

I've blogged at The Seminal for about two years, was at cabdrollery for around three. I live in N.TX., worked for Sen.Yarborough of TX after graduation from Wellesley, went on to receive award in playwriting, served on MD Arts Council after award, then managed a few campaigns in MD and served as assistant to a member of the MD House for several years, have worked in legal offices and written for magazines, now am retired but addicted to politics, and join gladly in promoting liberals and liberal policies.