Idol at Copan

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View of a Mayan stone idol standing against a background of woodland
Idol at Copan.




The Getty Research Institute, the Internet Archive
Drawn on stone by Andrew Picken


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View of a Mayan stone idol standing against a background of woodland. This sculpture is described as follows by the author:

The idol is carved out of a single block of compact limestone, and measures eleven feet eight inches (3.56 m) in height, and three feet four inches (1.02 m) on each side, standing on a pedestal six feet (1.83 m) square. It is surrounded by a circular stone curb or rim, measuring, in its outer diameter, sixteen feet six inches (5.03 m). A sacrificial stone, or altar, stands in front of it, at a distance of eight feet ten inches, but is not introduced into the drawing, as it would have hidden the lower part of the figure. It is placed diagonally towards the idol, measuring seven feet across. There is every probability (from the deep groovings, or channels, on all the altars) that they were used for the immolation of human victims. The idol, viewed in front, represents a woman of middle age, with the arms curiously raised and bent before her; the wrists are adorned with bracelets of beads, and the neck profusely covered with necklaces; on either side of the head decends a tress of hair; the ears are large, unnatural in their shape, and are decorated with ear-drops; immediately over the forehead appears a row of beads attached to the hair. The head-dress is not easy to describe: it is very lofty, and one of its peculiarities is a skull, or upper part of the head of some animal, the lower jaw being wanting. Whether the remainder of the head-dress is intended to represent feathers, or flowers, or a mixture of the two, is doubtful. The lower part of the dress has the appearance of a cotton robe (cotton being indigenous to the country, and much used), ornamented with chequer work, and fringed with beads. The feet are clothed in sandals of precisely the same form as are found in some of the old Roman statues; they appear to have been a conspicuous part of the dress. The sides of the idol have rows of hieroglyphics, and the back is as elaborately carved as the front, but the subject is totally different. It presents a mask, surrounded by complicated ornaments, with a gracefully disposed border, and, at the base, rows of hieroglyphics.

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