Idol and Altar at Copan

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Idol and altar at Copan
Idol and altar at Copan.

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The Getty Research Institute, the Internet Archive

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In this plate, the altar, or sacrificial stone, forms the principal object in the foreground. It is three feet six inches high, above the ground, and measures seven feet from angle to angle. It is sculpted into four hideous heads of colossal size, having enormous fangs, and distended eyes, adding, no doubt, the finishing horror to the bloody sacrifices which there can be little doubt were enacted on it. Certain channels (now nearly obliterated) exist on its upper surface, to carry off the blood of the human victim; and to render the operation of cutting open the breast, and tearing out the heart more easy, the upper surface of the stone is convex, agreeing with the account of the early Spanish discoverers. It was painted red, a fitting colour for so sanguinary a ritual. The idol, to whom the sacrifice was offered, stands at a distance of twelve feet from the sacrificial stone. It is eleven feet nine inches high, and three feet square, cut out of a single block of stone, and has elaborate carvings on the back and sides. It is conjectured to be the portrait of some deified hero or chieftain, from certain traces of individuality in the features. There are remains of a beard and moustache, and the whole figure is enveloped and overladen with a complicated dress and head ornament. It stands at the foot of a pyramidal terrace, or wall, which probably supported a sacred edifice.

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