A Story of 18 Rabbit in Copan

18 RABBIT died at the hands of his nephew, Sky Monster.

He was the best-known and most powerful Mayan ruler.

The 13th god/king of the Copan dynasty, 18 Rabbit ruled well for 43 years until his violent death — a passing that presaged the collapse of not only Copan (located in modern Honduras), but also virtually all the Mayan civilizations of the Classic Period.

Eschewing his father’s wars of conquest that had left Copan in a precarious state, 18 Rabbit oversaw a renaissance of Mayan art and architecture.

His many projects included Copan’s Great Plaza, the unequaled Hieroglyphic Staircase (containing 1,200 inscriptions, the longest known Mayan text), Copan’s magnificent Temple 22, and seven elaborately detailed estelas (tall, stone monuments) depicting himself as various Mayan gods.

But even 18 Rabbit’s enlightened vision could not prevent Copan’s demise, the inexorable result of the city-state’s own success. Once Copan’s population reached a pinnacle of perhaps 27,000 inhabitants, the countryside no longer could provide enough food. Massive deforestation — for agriculture and for fuel (voracious limestone kilns provided plaster for Copan’s extensive monuments) — caused soil depletion, erosion and may have even contributed to a devastating drought.

The incipient disaster led to social upheaval and political unrest as well, which may explain why Sky Monster decided to murder his uncle, 18 Rabbit.
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