Archeologists now believe that settlers began moving into the Río Copán valley from around 1400 BC, taking advantage of the area’s rich agricultural potential, although construction of the city is not thought to have begun until around 100 AD. By 760 AD the population had reached 28,000 before decline took hold in the 800s due to scant food resources and disease. Don Diego de Palacios, a Spanish court official, mentions the ruins  “constructed with such skill that it seems that they could never have been made by people as coarse as the inhabitants of this province” in a letter of 1576. But it was not until the 1830s that archeologists, notably John Stephens, the US ambassador to Honduras and British archeologist Alfred Maudsley began to map and decipher the site. For those interested in finding out more, Vision del Pasado Maya by Fash and Fasquelle, available from the museums, is an excellent historical account of the site’s history in Spanish.

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