Copán Ruinas, Videos of the Hieroglyphic stairway, Stela M, and other Temples at Copan. 2022.


Ancient Copan was the capital of a large multi-ethnic territory from 426 to 822 CE, during the Classic period of Maya civilization.

Videos of the Hieroglyphic stairway, Stela M, and other Temples at Copan. 2022.

This website is the collaborative effort of so many people that have dedicated their lives to the work and care of the monuments at Copan. It’s a testament to our current latest stages of our engineering and sciences for the recording and display of those of the Ancient Maya.

We worked in the tunnels for several consecutive months to digitize the current state in the survey presented on this website, and these teams from Instituto Hondureño de Antropología e Historia (IHAH), Asociación Copan, Copan Archaeological and Conservation Project at the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnography at Harvard University, and the University of Pennsylvania made it possible:

Temple 16 and Rosalila Temple:
Ricardo Agurcia Fasquelle, Elisandro Garza, Manuel Cueva, Luis Cueva, Joel Villeda, Manuel Antonio Guerra

Temples 20, 22, and Margarita:
Adelso Canán, Karina García, Erasmo Ramirez, Don Francisco, and William Fash

And the Mused team:
Talya Stanke, Tessa Litecky, and Luke Hollis

The articles connected to the 3d environment are generously included from the book The Copan Sculpture Museum: Ancient Maya Artistry in Stucco, so I highly recommend buying a copy of it from the publisher. Many of the artifact photos were contributed from the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnography, and links to their collections are included where relevant.

I think that should be everything–but this site will continue to grow and be edited for many years. Thanks for visiting! I hope that you get to visit Copan Ruinas in person to witness this incredible site and its monuments.

- Luke

The Archaeological Site of Copan

Copan is a significant archaeological site located in modern-day Honduras, near the border with Guatemala. It was once a major city and cultural center of the ancient Maya civilization, thriving between the 5th and 9th centuries AD.

Copan is intensely important to our understanding of the Maya world: the Rosalila Temple is the only Ancient Maya temple that was discovered fully-preserved, and the monumental Hieroglyphic Stairway is the longest existing Mayan text anywhere. The discoveries of the Royal Tombs partnered with the intact residential structures offer a unparalleled vista in the lives and world of the ancient people that lived there.

Copan was one of the most important cities of the Maya civilization, serving as a political, economic, and cultural hub. The city reached its peak during the Late Classic Period (AD 600-900), under the rule of several powerful kings. Copan's rich history provides valuable insights into the complex relationships between various Maya city-states, their rulers, and their dynastic histories.

In addition to the inscriptions, the site of Copan is renowned for its exquisite and well-preserved architecture, including temples, plazas, and residential structures. The intricate stone carvings and stelae found at Copan showcase the extraordinary artistic talents of the ancient Maya and offer a window into their beliefs, mythology, and rituals.

Excavations at Copan have revealed valuable information about the daily lives, social organization, and religious practices of the ancient Maya people. Researchers have found evidence of skilled craftsmanship, complex agricultural systems, and advanced urban planning, highlighting the sophistication of Maya society. Moreover, the site has provided crucial data for understanding the Maya writing system, astronomy, and calendrical systems, which were incredibly advanced for their time.

Copan serves as a crucial source of cultural heritage for both the local community and the global community at large. The site is a symbol of the rich and complex history of the region and offers an opportunity to learn about and celebrate the achievements of the ancient Maya civilization. In 1980, UNESCO recognized the importance of Copan by designating it a World Heritage Site, highlighting its outstanding universal value.

In summary, the archaeological site of Copan is deeply important for the world as it offers a unique and valuable glimpse into the history, culture, and artistic achievements of the ancient Maya civilization. It is a crucial source of cultural heritage and a testament to the complexity and sophistication of this pre-Columbian society.

3D Documentation Onsite at Copan

During 2022, the teams working at Copan created a full 3d scan of the elaborate tunnel system within the temples that was able to be reached. These tunnels were created by archaeologists over the last century to study the structures that were built upward and outward over time.

Unlike pyramids in other cultures that may have been created all at once, the ancient Maya built their pyramids and temples outward generation by generation, similar to Russian nesting dolls. In order to study them, archaeologists had to excavated inside the temples, creating tunnels to the deepest and oldest parts of the city.

Due to the extreme weather conditions on site, the tunnel system is being repaired and many tunnels are being backfilled for the preservation of the monuments that were uncovered within. The 3d virtual tour serves as a visual record and permanent survey for visitors around the world to explore and learn about Copan and its history–and the assiduous work of the people of the village of Copan and the archaeologists to dig and study all of these tunnels.

By 3D scanning the tunnels before they are reburied, you ensure that the information and features they contain are not lost forever. The digital records will serve as a valuable resource for future research and can be used for educational purposes. This technology provides a safe and non-invasive method for capturing detailed information about the site.

3D scanning generates highly accurate and detailed digital models that can be used for in-depth analysis and interpretation of the site's structures, artifacts, and features. These models are shared with researchers and the general public equally worldwide, enabling everyone to study the tunnels and their contents remotely. We hope this digital collaboration will lead to new insights and discoveries about the ancient Maya civilization and their architectural techniques.

The virtual model is also used for site management and disaster preparedness in studying the effects of the tunnel system of the monuments it exposes. In the event of future collapses or other natural disasters (such as the 2020 hurricanes), the digital models can serve as a reference for restoration and conservation efforts. This data will be invaluable for preserving the site and ensuring its long-term sustainability.

In summary, 3D scanning the archaeological tunnels at Copan before they are reburied is critical for preserving and documenting an essential part of the ancient Maya civilization. This technology enables researchers to access, study, and share information about the tunnels safely and efficiently, leading to new insights and discoveries, and contributing to the preservation of our global cultural heritage.

Copán Ruinas

Archaeological and Conservation Project

Ancient Copan was the capital of a large multi-ethnic territory from 426 to 822 CE, during the Classic period of Maya civilization.

Copán Ruinas, Honduras