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Copan Maya ruins in Honduras.	Source: Rafal Cichawa/Adobe Stock

The Ancient Maya: How Did Such An Advanced Society Collapse? (Video)


In 1839, John Lloyd Stevens embarked on a challenging expedition into the dense jungles of Honduras, fueled by tales of a magnificent Maya city, Copan. The ruins he discovered presented an enigma: a city that stood abandoned, adorned with mysterious carvings and elaborate temples. Early scholars depicted the Maya as peaceful stargazers, an idealized narrative shattered by contemporary archaeologists. Recent excavations, particularly at Copan, have unveiled a different reality. Contrary to the romanticized image, Copan's hieroglyphs tell tales of war, blood rituals, and human sacrifice. The Maya, like any civilization, engaged in conflict, jostling for dominance and power. The excavation techniques employed, such as intricate tunneling, revealed the city's secrets without causing extensive damage.

Within Copan's temples lay tombs, the largest ever found, concealing the identities of noble individuals, perhaps kings, adding to the historical puzzle. The Maya Code, once silent, now speaks, reshaping our understanding of this ancient civilization. Bloodletting ceremonies, ball games with cosmic significance, and artistic peaks marked their society. However, the blood pact between kings and subjects couldn't shield Copan from internal strife and collapse. The grand hieroglyphic stairway, while boasting a glorious history, belies the weakening foundations beneath, a metaphor for the decline of an advanced society grappling with internal conflicts and external pressures.

Top image: Copan Maya ruins in Honduras.        Source: Rafal Cichawa/Adobe Stock

By Robbie Mitchell

Robbie Mitchell's picture


I’m a graduate of History and Literature from The University of Manchester in England and a total history geek. Since a young age, I’ve been obsessed with history. The weirder the better. I spend my days working as a freelance... Read More

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