Marcello Canuto and Carlos Chiriboga


A critical aspect of ancient statecraft that facilitated the development and maintenance of large complex polities involved the successful development and control of routes of communication, trade, travel, and pilgrimage. To wit, this project examines the intra-regional route system developed by the ancient Maya of the Classic period kingdom of Copan (AD 400 - 900) in the mountainous region of western Honduras. For more than four centuries the kings of Copan ruled over a large and rugged hinterland that was largely integrated politically and economically through the successful movement and exchange of ideas, people, and goods.

Combining archaeological settlement data, remote sensing imagery, modern maps, ethnographically derived information, and spatial modeling, a map of potential ancient routes throughout western Honduras can be developed and then tested through regional survey. Such a model would help determine what routes would have been the most important, and how those routes might have been maintained and controlled. Moreover, the archaeological investigation of these routes can also help explain in what way intra-regional exchange was a factor in the eventual collapse of the Copan dynasty in the early AD 9th century. This unknown can also help determine the extent to which Classic Maya polities were organized as unitary and centralizing territorial units.

The PAREP website provides more information about the Proyecto Arqueológico Regional El Paraíso.