"Quiriguá is an ancient Maya site - UNESCO" Quiriguá by Sambawalk

Quiriguá Travel Guide: 10 reviews and 58 photos

Quiriguá is an ancient Maya site - UNESCO

The archaeological site of Quirigua contains the largest stelae ever discovered in the Mayan world. Quirigua is just 94 kilometers from Puerto Barrios on the road to Guatemala City, making it the closest place from the capital to see important ruins.

My visit here was part of the 7 days Holland Amercia West Carribean cruise visit, including Belize, Gatamela , and Cozumel, Mexico. The tour was 4.5 hours long and it costs US$79

Quiriguá is a medium sized site along the lower Motagua river, with the ceremonial center heart of the site about 1 km from the left bank of the river. The city's period of occupation seems to correspond to the length of the Maya Classic period; the site being occupied by 200, construction on the acropolis begun about 550, a great boom of grander construction beginning in the 700s with all construction evidently halting about 850. Quiriguá's boom in the 700s was no doubt tied to the military victory by Quiriguá's king Cauac Sky (also known to the Ancient Maya as "Butz Tiliw" and "K’ak’ Tiliw Chan Yo'at") over Copán in 738, when the most famous king from Copán, Uaxaclajuun Ub'aah K'awiil or "18-Rabbit", was defeated, captured and then sacrificed in the grand Plaza at Quiriguá. Before this Quiriguá was probably a vassal state of Copán, afterwards the situation was reversed. The amount of grand ceremonial architecture is perhaps rather small for a site of Quiriguá's importance, but the site remains very impressive thanks largely to its wealth of sculpture, some of the finest of ancient Mesoamerica.

This includes unusually huge stelae elaborately carved from single blocks of stone, the largest being 10 meters (35 feet) tall and weighing some 60,000 kg (65 tons), the Stela E, the largest of the Maya civilization. In addition to the tall vertical stelae, the site has a number of boulders elaborately sculpted into the forms of mythological animals; these sculptures are referred to as Zoomorphs. There are also various altars and sculptures used as decoration in the facades of buildings. As a whole, the artistry of the sculptures is not quite so good as the best found at Palenque and Copán; most Quiriguá monuments have a grand formal monumentallity that is rather stiff compared to the naturalistic grace of the art of those other sites. A few Quiriguá monuments, however, show exceptional artistry. Probably the finest of these are Stela D from 766 which has extravagant full-figure anthropomorphic versions of Maya hieroglyphics on one side, and Zoomorph P (which explorer Maudslay nicknamed The Great Turtle), from 736, which are masterpieces of Mesoamerican art. Stela C depicts the date 13.0.0.0.0 4 Ahaw 8 Kumk'u (August 13, 3114 BC), the beginning of the 5th Maya Era.

While the more popular Mayan ruins at Tikal are quite a trip away from Santo Tomás de Castilla Guatemala, you can sample the more modest ruins at Quiriguá. The different cruise lines that stop at Santo Tomás de Castilla Guatemala offer tours to places of interest, and Quiriguá is a tour that many people choose. What Quiriguá lacks in size, it makes up for with its fine sculptures, which represent some of the finest pieces from ancient Mesoamerica. Quiriguá, consequently, has been added to the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Stelae in Quiriguá

The archaeological site of Quirigua contains the largest stelae ever discovered in the Mayan world. The unusually huge stelae elaborately carved from single blocks of stone, the largest being 10 meters (35 feet) tall and weighing some 60,000 kg (65 tons), the Stela E, the largest of the Maya civilization. In addition to the tall vertical stelae, the site has a number of boulders elaborately sculpted into the forms of mythological animals; these sculptures are referred to as Zoomorphs.

Nine stelae are arranged around the central plaza, accompanied by altars carved into zoomorphic shapes. The largest of these, Stela E, is eight meters tall. The ruins are unrestored, but deciphered hieroglyphs from the stelae and altars tell a fascinating story of Quirigua's relationship with nearby Copan.

Zoomorphs

In addition to the tall vertical stelae, the site has a number of boulders elaborately sculpted into the forms of mythological animals; these sculptures are referred to as Zoomorphs.

  • Last visit to Quiriguá: Oct 2007
  • Intro Updated Dec 8, 2008
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