Quiriguá, Guatemala – Stele between banana

Quiriguá is another famous Maya place. Not too much because of the few excavated buildings but more because of the highest stone stele in this cultural environment that were ornately sculpted – without metal tools. The Maya knew neither metals nor the wheel.

Yesterday afternoon we started from Tikal via the fully developed CA 13 to the Caribbean coast. There is no wait at Rio Dulce thanks to a bridge. The river flows into the narrow lake Itzabal that pours in the Caribbean Sea close to Livingston. Since we made good progress we continued to Quiriguá at CA 9. Although the gates to the ruins were already closed one hour after opening hours the watchmen are always here. Our wish to visit the archaeological find the next morning and to camp on the secured ground seemed to be very understandable. The gate opened for us, and we didn’t have to pay anything. Just the opposite: The men offered us to use their bathroom and showers. After inspection we relinquish. But it was a nice gesture anyway (N 15°16’25.6’’ W 89°02’31.9’’).

For 80 Quetzals entrance fee we visit the stele today. The rectangular stone monuments show the prevailing ruler on two opposite sides and the date specification of the Mayan calendar on the two other faces. Hieroglyphic texts tell about the relation of the sovereign to the gods and about important historic events. For example like ruler Thunder Sky captured Eighteen Rabbits, the ruler of Copán in today’s Honduras, in the year 738, and sacrificed him the next day. However, another stele in Copán reports on Eighteen Rabbits who heroically fell fighting against Thunder Sky. The truth remains a secret. The largest stele is more than 10 m high and weighs 65 tons. In later years objects of zoomorphism were erected. The three to four metres long stone ashlars were brought into the shape of mystical animals (like a tortoise) and are also covered with symbols and characters that tell stories.

Quiriguá is located in the middle of a small remaining piece of rain forest. For miles around all trees and most animals fell victim to monoculture plantations. Their only task is to satisfy our hunger: our hunger for banana.

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