Copán site yields human remains
Archaeologists discovered human remains and unearthed 30 buildings in Copán, one of the Mayan empire's principal cities, which flourished between 250 and 900.
BY FREDDY CUEVAS
TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras - Scientists working at the Copán archaeological site in western Honduras said Sunday that they have unearthed the 1,450-year-old remains of 69 people, as well as 30 previously undiscovered buildings and structures.
Copán, 190 miles west of Tegucigalpa, the capital, flourished between 250 and 900, part of a vast Mayan empire that stretched across parts of modern-day Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras. The site was eventually abandoned, however, in part because of overpopulation, historians believe.
Seiichi Nakamura, one of a team of Japanese scientists working alongside Honduran counterparts, said at a news conference that the human remains likely belong to people who inhabited Copán around 550, during the rule of the 10th Mayan leader, Moon Jaguar.
''We uncovered more than 450 pieces of pots and vessels and musical instruments made of jade, stone, shells and ceramics,'' Nakamura said.
Nakamura, who has worked in Honduras for the past seven years, said the discoveries were found north of Copán's Great Plaza, or Plaza de las Estelas. The find also includes ''at least 30 structures,'' he said.
Nakamura said offerings were discovered in and around the sites where the bones were buried and that those artifacts found near the remains of a 12-year-old child were among the richest ever discovered in Copán, meaning the youngster was likely an important member of society.
Scientists will soon begin working to restore the latest discovery and hope to open the area to tourists in 2007, Nakamura said.
The first European to report news of Copán is believed to be Diego García de Palacios, a representative of Spain's King Felipe II. On March 8, 1576, he wrote to the crown with news of the archaeological site.
Accounts of Copán published by U.S. explorers John L. Stephens and Frederick Catherwood made the site an international phenomenon in the 1840s.
Once a thriving commercial center, the ancient Maya are thought to have first settled in Copán around 1200 B.C.
Little is known about the kings who ruled the area, but scientists have deciphered some of their names, including Mat Head, the second king, Cu Ix, the fourth king, and the seventh, Waterlily Jaguar. Butz' Chan was the king who followed Moon Jaguar.
UNESCO declared Copán a world heritage site in 1981.