Rescue Stabilization

Completed Projects – Rescue and Stabilization of the Acropolis River Cut


Long after the Maya abandoned the city, the Copan River changed its course. The force of the river eroded the east side of the acropolis, exposing a cross-section of centuries of Maya architecture. Though the exposure allowed archaeologists to tunnel in to the site’s stratigraphy, performing less damaging “arthroscopic archaeology”, it presented a serious problem for site conservation. Researchers in the 1930s tried a somewhat successful effort to stabilize the erosion by building earthworks upstream to alter the river’s course.

Even with these efforts, by the 1970s the “archaeological cut” represented the primary threat to the physical integrity of the site. It stretched more than 200 meters wide, thirty meters tall, and was in dire need of attention.

The Copan Association’s river cut stabilization project was one of the most dramatic and significant works of monument stabilization in Latin America. Not only were many buried temples saved from undercutting and erosion, but also in this process we were able to save the remainder of Structure 10L-21 and the stairs of the Jaguar Patio (East Court).

The Copan Association carried this project out in six stages with major financial support from the Honduran Social Investment Fund (FHIS).