Quantcast
4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs

Mayan Ruins in Quirigua, Guatemala

Guatemalen stelae
Guatemalen stelae

I’m fascinated by the Mayan civilization and its monumental architecture, artwork and culture and have visited ancient Mayan sites throughout Mexico, Guatemala and Honduras.

Some sites are sprawling, and it’s amazing to step back in time, surrounded by the plazas and buildings. I have found other sites that, though they might not be on a normal tourist itinerary, are also worth the time to visit — even offering up unknown treasures of history and workmanship.

The ancient Mayan site of Quirigua is small compared to its famous cousins like Tikal, Palenque and Chichen Itza. It lacks the monumental temples, palaces and ball courts of the other more famous Mayan ruins. What it does offer is some of the most outstanding sculptures, best examples of hieroglyphic writing and the largest stelae in the Mesoamerican world.

Located in the midst of a banana plantation a couple of hours from the Caribbean coast in southeast Guatemala, Quirigua is a great diversion for tourists traveling to the coast or to the famous ruins of Copan just south across the Honduran border. The Motagua River runs nearby, and along with the proximity of the coast and large jade deposits in the area, it made Quirigua a major trade center during its time. The city was a vassal state of Copan for years until it broke the bonds and became its own independent polity.

Cahuac Sky was Quirigua’s leader from 724 A.D. to 785 A.D. The event that led to his fame and the freedom of his kingdom occurred in 738 A.D., when he defeated the forces of Copan and brought their leader known as 18 Rabbit back to Quirigua and had him publicly beheaded.

Many of the stelae that dot the site are monuments to Cahuac Sky. Upon entering the site there are amenities such as bathrooms, a gift shop and snack bar. You walk through trees into the Great Plaza, a long manicured area with sculptured stelae, zoomorphs and sacrificial altars strewn throughout.

Passing the site where a ballcourt once stood, you reach the end of the plaza and the acropolis, a palace complex with a large grassy area in the middle that’s great for a picnic on its steps. One of the nice things about this site is that it isn’t packed with tourists, so a nice quiet exploration can be enjoyed. You’ll marvel at the detail on its sculpture and if you learn even a basic understanding of the Mayan writing — like dates and emblem glyphs — you will truly be rewarded.

Traveling to Guatemala and seeing the site is a wonderful experience. The surroundings are beautiful, and seeing the magnificent sculpture in person and studying the intricate details of the hieroglyphs make for a time well spent. If you’d like to get a taste of Quirigua with a sampling of their sculpture, you can see replicas of a few stelae and zoomorphs in the San Diego Museum of Man, along with other Mayan artifacts.

Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all

Previous article

Nicholas Wiseman: a great influence on John Henry Newman

Also known as author of Fabiola, a novel
Guatemalen stelae
Guatemalen stelae

I’m fascinated by the Mayan civilization and its monumental architecture, artwork and culture and have visited ancient Mayan sites throughout Mexico, Guatemala and Honduras.

Some sites are sprawling, and it’s amazing to step back in time, surrounded by the plazas and buildings. I have found other sites that, though they might not be on a normal tourist itinerary, are also worth the time to visit — even offering up unknown treasures of history and workmanship.

The ancient Mayan site of Quirigua is small compared to its famous cousins like Tikal, Palenque and Chichen Itza. It lacks the monumental temples, palaces and ball courts of the other more famous Mayan ruins. What it does offer is some of the most outstanding sculptures, best examples of hieroglyphic writing and the largest stelae in the Mesoamerican world.

Located in the midst of a banana plantation a couple of hours from the Caribbean coast in southeast Guatemala, Quirigua is a great diversion for tourists traveling to the coast or to the famous ruins of Copan just south across the Honduran border. The Motagua River runs nearby, and along with the proximity of the coast and large jade deposits in the area, it made Quirigua a major trade center during its time. The city was a vassal state of Copan for years until it broke the bonds and became its own independent polity.

Cahuac Sky was Quirigua’s leader from 724 A.D. to 785 A.D. The event that led to his fame and the freedom of his kingdom occurred in 738 A.D., when he defeated the forces of Copan and brought their leader known as 18 Rabbit back to Quirigua and had him publicly beheaded.

Many of the stelae that dot the site are monuments to Cahuac Sky. Upon entering the site there are amenities such as bathrooms, a gift shop and snack bar. You walk through trees into the Great Plaza, a long manicured area with sculptured stelae, zoomorphs and sacrificial altars strewn throughout.

Passing the site where a ballcourt once stood, you reach the end of the plaza and the acropolis, a palace complex with a large grassy area in the middle that’s great for a picnic on its steps. One of the nice things about this site is that it isn’t packed with tourists, so a nice quiet exploration can be enjoyed. You’ll marvel at the detail on its sculpture and if you learn even a basic understanding of the Mayan writing — like dates and emblem glyphs — you will truly be rewarded.

Traveling to Guatemala and seeing the site is a wonderful experience. The surroundings are beautiful, and seeing the magnificent sculpture in person and studying the intricate details of the hieroglyphs make for a time well spent. If you’d like to get a taste of Quirigua with a sampling of their sculpture, you can see replicas of a few stelae and zoomorphs in the San Diego Museum of Man, along with other Mayan artifacts.

Sponsored
Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all
Previous article

Three poems for August by Dorothy Parker

With an acidic wit and keen eye for flawed humanity
Next Article

Song Without a Name: gone baby gone

Melina León finds horror in an environment usually associated with safety and nurturing.
Comments
2

But what of their calendar?

May 14, 2011

great tip on the Museum of Man!

May 15, 2011

Sign in to comment

Sign in

Art Reviews — W.S. Di Piero's eye on exhibits Ask a Hipster — Advice you didn't know you needed Best Buys — San Diego shopping Big Screen — Movie commentary Blurt — Music's inside track Booze News — San Diego spirits City Lights — News and politics Classical Music — Immortal beauty Classifieds — Free and easy Cover Stories — Front-page features Excerpts — Literary and spiritual excerpts Famous Former Neighbors — Next-door celebs Feast! — Food & drink reviews Feature Stories — Local news & stories From the Archives — Spotlight on the past Golden Dreams — Talk of the town Here's the Deal — Chad Deal's watering holes Just Announced — The scoop on shows Letters — Our inbox [email protected] — Local movie buffs share favorites Movie Reviews — Our critics' picks and pans Musician Interviews — Up close with local artists Neighborhood News from Stringers — Hyperlocal news News Ticker — News & politics Obermeyer — San Diego politics illustrated Of Note — Concert picks Out & About — What's Happening Overheard in San Diego — Eavesdropping illustrated Poetry — The old and the new Pour Over — Grab a cup Reader Travel — Travel section built by travelers Reading — The hunt for intellectuals Roam-O-Rama — SoCal's best hiking/biking trails San Diego Beer News — Inside San Diego suds SD on the QT — Almost factual news Set 'em Up Joe — Bartenders' drink recipes Sheep and Goats — Places of worship Special Issues — The best of Sports — Athletics without gush Street Style — San Diego streets have style Suit Up — Fashion tips for dudes Theater Reviews — Local productions Theater antireviews — Narrow your search Tin Fork — Silver spoon alternative Under the Radar — Matt Potter's undercover work Unforgettable — Long-ago San Diego Unreal Estate — San Diego's priciest pads Waterfront — All things ocean Your Week — Daily event picks
4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
Close