September 2000 Meeting of the Pre-Columbian Society

Ellen Bell , "Building a Dynasty: A Look at Early Classic Kingship at Copán, Honduras"

    The Classic Maya center of Copán, Honduras, has long fascinated visitors with its picturesque setting, extensive architectural remains, and strikingly sculpted free-standing monuments and building facades.  More interesting than these, however, are the stories of the people, places, and events that created and shaped them.  A unique program of tunneling excavations within the core of the Acropolis has made it possible to corroborate elements of the dynastic founding accounts with contemporaneous inscriptions and to locate the buildings and plazas that might have served as its setting.  The excavations have also revealed two richly furnished tombs which may contain the remains of the dynastic founder and his wife. In this talk, she examined this extensive funerary complex to see how it was used by the founder, his wife, and his successors to establish, legitimate, and maintain political power within the polity.
  Ms. Bell reviewed the history of the kingship at Copan and provided a  glimpse of some of the latest results from the University of Pennsylvania's on-going research project.  We learned that the remains thought to be those of dynastic progenitor Yax Kuk Mo belong to a person who may have come from the Maya Lowlands, not Copan (and, to the surprise of some, NOT Teotihuacan).  She examined the extensive funerary complex to see how it was used by the founder,  his wife, and his successors.  Ms Bell showed slides of many artifacts, and related that neutron activation analysis has shown them to come from all  over  the Maya world: Highland Mexico, the Peten, even western Honduras.

    Ellen Bell, a graduate student in Anthropology at the University of Pennsylvania, is currently conducting dissertation research at the Classic Period Maya center of Copán, Honduras, as part of the Early Copán Acropolis Program, directed by Dr. Robert J. Sharer of the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology. Her research focuses on the form, function, and meaning of ritual deposits and the objects they contain and includes the excavation and analysis of the contents of two royal tombs buried deep within the Acropolis. The 2000 field season marks Ellen's 10th year of work in Honduras, which began while she was an undergraduate at Kenyon College. It is also her final season of dissertation research.

back to home page