Quirigua is a Mayan archaeological site in Guatemala that is famous for its stone carvings. Many art-lovers visit the ruins of Quirigua Guatemala to see finely carved stelae, some of which are massive in scale. The largest is 35 feet high, five feet wide, and five feet thick and was carved from one piece of stone. This artifact alone weighs 60 tons. The Quirigua ruins have twelve of these stelae, or stone carvings. In comparison to other Mayan ruins, the art and architecture of this site is significant for its intricate details. Unlike paintings or wood carvings that don’t stand the test of time, these stone carvings have remained unchanged for thousands of years.

Quirigua is medium-sized and covers an area of approximately 1.2 square miles. It is located on the Motagua River and therefore was situated at a strategic point for trade routes. This city controlled the jade and obsidian trade to the Caribbean coastline, and also had a fierce rivalry with the neighboring city of Copan. In 738 AD Quirigua came out on top and conquered Copan. The leader of Copan was captured and sacrificed in the main plaza. These tales are the type of facts that bring the Quirigua ruins to life. Ambitions, political struggles, and economic hardships can all be interpreted by the clues these Mayan civilizations left behind.

When touring the Quirigua archaeological ruins, you’ll see that ultimately it’s not clear why the city declined. Ironically, it occurred within decades of conquering Copan. Archaeologists theorize that by 810 AD all Quirigua residents had migrated elsewhere and the city was abandoned. Common theories for the decline of cities during this time period include wars and depletion of national resources, but in the case of Quirigua, the decline of this great city still remains a mystery. Despite this fact, there is fascinating architecture to explore at the ruins of Quirigua Guatemala.

The Acropolis is believed to be a former residential and administrative complex. Palaces, a ball court, and sweat baths are all nearby. During your tour of these attractions keep your eyes out for the wall decorations devoted to the Mayan sun god. Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1981, the Quirigua ruins are fascinating for another reason: The famous large stone carvings are not only beautiful, but also puzzling. Somehow the enormous stones that were the basis of the carvings were transported through the jungle from distant quarries to the city. Archaeologists don’t think carts or animals were used in their transportation, which makes the existence of these carvings all the more remarkable.

The ruins of Quirigua Guatemala are also unusual because they experienced less looting than other Mayan ruins. These tall stone carvings have remained largely undisturbed over time, and this fact draws visitors from far and wide. A visitor’s center, small museum, and gift shop selling jade are all available on the premises. A thorough look around the archaeological site will take about one and a half or two hours, and the terrain isn’t challenging for walking. A great spot for families, Quirigua is sure to pique your interest on the ancient Mayans.

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