(Picture courtesy of Urban Sea Star at flickr.com.)
In the Mayan ceremonial center of Copán in Honduras, an ancient temple has been covered and preserved over the centuries by the builders themselves. Nicknamed ‘Rosalila’, it was preserved as it had been constructed and is considered as a sacred temple which had the main building of the Copán center built over it.
One of the best preserved phases of Temple 16 is the Rosalila, built over the remains of five previous versions of the temple. Archaeologist Ricardo Agurcia discovered the almost intact shrine while tunneling underneath the final version of the temple. Rosalila is notable for its excellent state of preservation, including the entire building from the base platform up to the roof comb, including its highly elaborate painted stucco decoration. Rosalila features K’inich Yax K’uk’ Mo’ placed at the centre of a mythological tableau, combining the founder of the dynasty with the sky deityItzamna in avian form. The mythological imagery also includes anthropomorphic mountains, skeletons and crocodiles. Vents in the exterior were designed so smoke from incense being burned inside the shrine would interact with the stucco sculpture of the exterior. The temple had a hieroglyphic stone step with a dedicatory inscription. The stone step is less well preserved than the rest of the building, but a date in AD 571 has been deciphered. Due to the deforestation of the Copán valley, the Rosalila building was the last structure at the site to use such elaborate stucco decoration — vast quantities of firewood could no longer be spared to reduce limestone to plaster. A life-size copy of the Rosalila building has been built at the Copán site museum.
Uaxaclajuun Ub’aah K’awiil encased the Rosalila phase under a new version of the building in the early 8th century AD. An offering was made as part of the rites to terminate the old phase and included a collection of eccentric flints worked into the profiles of humans and gods, which were wrapped in blue-dyed textiles.
The structure has been moved to the archaeological museum at Copán, where it has been once again preserved for the ages.
(Picture courtesy of Adalberto H. Vega at flickr.com.)