Inhabited since the 2nd century A.D., Quiriguá became the capital of an autonomous and prosperous state. Its ruins, located in what is today an archaeological park in southeastern Guatemala, constitute an essential resource for the study of Mayan civilization.
Archaeological Park and Ruins of Quiriguá
The Archaeological Park and Ruins of Quiriguá are located in the Department of Izabal in southeastern Guatemala and cover approximately 34 ha (84 acres) along the lower Motagua River.
The World Heritage inscribed property is dedicated exclusively to conserving the ancient architecture and the seventeen monuments carved between 426 and 810 AD that makes up this once-great city.
Inhabited since the 2nd century AD, Quiriguá became the capital of an autonomous and prosperous state, as it was situated at the juncture of several important trade routes.
Its ruins contain some outstanding 8th-century monuments and an impressive series of carved stelae and sculpted calendars that constitute an essential source for studying Mayan civilization.
Quiriguá is one of the significant testimonies of the Mayan civilization. For reasons which are not clear, it then entered a period of decline. It is known that at the time of the arrival of the European conquerors, the control of the jade route had been taken over by Nito, a city closer to the coast of the Caribbean Sea.
Although Quiriguá has retained ruins and vestiges of dwellings ranging between 200 and 900 AD, most of the monuments that ensure Quiriguá its worldwide renown date from the 8th century, the period during which the city was entirely remodeled in accordance with its function as a royal residence and administrative center.
At the core of Quiriguá is the Great Plaza, the largest known public space in the entire Maya area. The monumental complexes set out around the Great Plaza, the Ceremonial Plaza, and the Plaza of the Temple are remarkable for the complexity of their structure.
They have a highly elaborate system of pyramids, terraces, and staircases. This results in a complete remodeling of the natural relief and creates a singular dimension as at the Maya Site of Copán. The artful production of monolithic stone monuments carved in sandstone without using metal tools is outstanding.
The monuments, called stelae, contain hieroglyphic texts describing significant calendar dates, celestial events such as eclipses, passages of Maya mythology, and political events, as well as important social and historical events to the development of the city.
Not only does this text give a better understanding of the rise and fall of Quiriguá, but it also describes the span of time between 426 to 810 AD. making it possible to reconstruct parts of Mayan history.
During its brief time of erecting stelae, Quiriguá was one of only two cities to erect monuments marking the end of five-year periods regularly.