Idea #712 – Exploring the archaeological site of Quirigua in Guatemala
The archaeological park and ruins of Quirigua are located in the department of Izabal in Guatemala. The site covers an area of 34 hectares, exclusively devoted to the conservation of ancient architecture and seventeen monuments, carved between 426 and 810 AD, which make up this great city.
Quirigua is one of the major testimonies of the Mayan civilization. For reasons that remain unknown to date, Quirigua has been in a period of decline. We know that at the time of the arrival of the conquerors from Europe, control of the jade road was taken over by Nito, a city closer to the Caribbean coast. Although Quirigua has preserved ruins and remnants of dwellings dating back to between 200 and 900 AD, most of the buildings that made Quirigua famous all over the world date back to the 8th century, a period during which the city has been completely remodeled in accordance with its function as a royal residence and administrative center.
At the heart of Quirigua is the Great Square, the most famous public space of the entire Mayan civilization. The monumental ensembles around the Grand Place, the Ceremonial Square and the Temple Square are remarkable for the complexity of their structures – a very elaborate system of pyramids, terraces and staircases that completely reorganizes the natural relief and creates, as at Copán, a singular dimension.
The artistic production of monolithic monuments, carved in sandstone and without the use of metal tools, is exceptional. The monuments, called steles, present hieroglyphic texts that describe important calendar dates, celestial events such as eclipses, passages of Mayan mythology and political events as well as social and historical events important for the development of the city. These texts are not only useful for a better understanding of the rise and fall of the city of Quirigua but they also describe a period of time between 426 and 810, thus making possible the reconstruction of parts of the Mayan history. During the brief period during which steles were erected, Quirigua was one of only two cities to regularly erect monuments commemorating the end of the five-year period.
Where is it?