The hieroglyphic stairway and its ancestors: Investigations of Copan Structure 10L-26

William L. Fash, Richard V. Williamson, Carlos Rudy Larios, Joel Palka

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations


The investigation of Structure 10L-26 has revealed a series of sequent monumental constructions underlying the elaborate final phase temple/pyramid made famous by the Maya area's largest hieroglyphic stairway. The meticulous recording and analysis of the archaeological, architectural, hieroglyphic, and iconographic materials from this sequence of sculpture-adorned buildings provides the opportunity for a diachronic view of the nature of the historical record and political symbolism. Investigations conducted to date provide hieroglyphic and archaeological evidence in support of the sequence of rulers documented in the official histories of the last four rulers of Copan, and evidence of a dramatic shift in the use of this space, and of political symbolism in general, by the fifteenth king, Smoke Shell. While the lack of evidence for “re-writing of history” will be encouraging to many, the evidence also shows the need for a careful assessment of official histories by archaeological excavations. Just as important, the Copan Acropolis research demonstrates the usefulness of incorporating ideas and data derived from the careful scrutiny of the public monuments in ongoing archaeological investigations and model building.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)105-115
Number of pages11
JournalAncient Mesoamerica
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1992
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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