The Copán archaeological site is one of the top tourist attractions in Honduras and for good reason. Sadly, only a fraction of the visitors to Copán visit a little gem of a site located right next door called Las Sepulturas, which was the Beverly Hills of Copán.
We’ve visited more than 60 Mayan sites and wandered around the residential areas at many of them. However, we never understood or appreciated the intricacies of day-to-day Mayan life until we visited Las Sepulturas with Mr. Perez who has worked with archaeologists at the site for years and works as a guide in his free time (+ 502 9699 5647, Spanish only).
The world’s first do-not-disturb signs
Mr. Perez told us that having mistresses was de rigor for the upper class of Copán, but how can you keep your other wives and mistresses from walking in on you having sex? One of the nobles who lived at Las Sepulturas was famed leader 18 Rabbit who was believed to have had at least 15 concubines.
To avoid awkward situations, the Mayans invented what must be the world’s first do-not-disturb signs which they hung in front of their houses to make it clear that they were busy.
Bizarre burial rites
Las Sepulturas means The Tombs because the residents (and, perhaps, all Mayans) had some pretty quirky burial customs which dictated the position of the corpse (fetal, laying down, standing up, etc) and the cardinal point it was meant to face.
At Las Sepulturas human remains have been found in special tombs built under beds and buried in courtyards around the houses of Las Sepulturas. One woman believed to have been of very high rank was found buried in a standing position underneath a central plaza.
Mayan home improvement
Mayans were as clever with their homes as they were with their temples, calendars, stele, and stairways. Mr. Perez pointed out the smoothness and durability of original plaster work, some of which is still visible, explained how the Mayans used the cotton-like fluff produced by the sacred ceiba tree (also called a cotton tree) to make mattresses and pillows (which were sometimes covered with jaguar pelts), and demonstrated how the leaves of another tree were crushed to create a vibrant red dye that was used like paint. The homes in Las Sepulturas even had indoor bathrooms with intricate drainage systems.
Las Spulturas travel tips: You can easily walk to the Las Sepulturas site from the Copán site and your Copán ticket gets you in.
The El Puente archaeological site
The El Puente archaeological site is another stop that will enhance your understanding of Copán. About 40 miles (60 kilometers) from Copán, El Puente is the second-largest Mayan site in Honduras (after Copán) with more than 200 structures, though less than 10 are excavated. Archaeologists tell us that El Puente was its own city but was eventually absorbed into Copán.
We parked at the entrance, toured the small museum then walked about half a mile (1 km) down a pleasant dirt road between fields to reach the small excavated plaza of El Puente.
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Here’s more about Archaeological Sites