A 3D Landscape Analysis of Stelae Visibility at Copan, Honduras


From the early 5th to early 9th centuries, a dynasty of sixteen kings ruled at the ancient Maya site of Copan, Honduras. In the mid-7thth century, Chan Imix K'awiil or Ruler 12, is believed to be the first of Copan’s rulers to erect stelae outside the city’s main civic-ceremonial group. Why did he do this? Did these stelae exist as solar markers? Did they serve as territorial markers? Or, were they part of a communication system? Scholars have set forth these and other hypotheses, to explain the purpose of the valley stelae. In this paper, we use traditional Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and the MayaArch3D WebGIS to perform visibility studies using GNSS GPS data of the stelae and terrain modeled from airborne LiDAR data. We then evaluate our results using additional archaeological and iconographic data in relation to existing hypotheses and explore new potential interpretations for the placement of these stelae in the Copan Valley.

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Cite this Record

A 3D Landscape Analysis of Stelae Visibility at Copan, Honduras. Heather Richards-Rissetto, Michael Auer, Jennifer von Schwerin, Nicolas Billen. Presented at The 80th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, San Francisco, California. 2015 ( tDAR id: 396904)


Geographic Keywords

Spatial Coverage

min long: -107.271; min lat: 12.383 ; max long: -86.353; max lat: 23.08 ;