On the south side of the West Court, close to Altar Q, on alternate sides of the rubble of Structure 14, are two large rectangular sheltered altars with readable glyphs. I couldn't find anything more about these except that these were erected by Ruler 13, Waxaklajun Ubaah K'awiil. There are other interesting carved relics in the area, none of which I could identify specifically, but one of which is covered so well that it was hard to see what it was.
Located on the Acropolis, Structure 22a is an annex of Temple 22 (which includes the extraordinary Sculputured Doorway and Witz Corners) and is itself also an extraordinary decorated structure. But instead of providing a spiritual purpose, Structure 22a provides a political purpose--the gathering of council members who appear to have held 5 calendar year terms. The original facade is in the museum (exhibits #46, #47, and #48), and at the time of my visit, the replica in situ was still being constructed.
The woven lintel pattern is reminiscent of the glyphs on Stela J, which is located near the causeway to the residences of the nobility at Sepulturas. This woven pattern reflects the woven grass mats the council members sat upon as they deliberated, and so Temple 22a name Popal Nah means mat house. The finished museum facade includes sculpture niches with seated figures that are directly over glyphs that probably represent the place names of those represented in this council. The original four sided structure 22a had 9 niches, representing each of the 9 council members. Exhibit #47 in the museum is the throne stone of Ruler 16, Yax Pasaj Chan Yopaat, the last ruler during whose reign Temple 22a was no doubt expanded and improved.
Stella N, located at the foot of Structure 11 on the Great Plaza side, is extraordinary for featuring two successive rulers, a father and son combo, one on each side. It was commissioned by ruler 15, K'ahk'Yipyaj Chan K'awiil (AD 749-761) and has his image plus that of his predecessor and father, ruler 14, K'ahk'Joplaj Chan K'awiil (AD 738-749). Stella N is nicely carved all the way around. Sorry for not getting a backside shot of Ruler 14.
Structure 11 is viewed from two sides during the guided tour, early on from the West Court, where Altar Q is located, and from the Great Plaza, adjacent to the Hieroglyphic Stairway. The West Court side provides an easier view of the whole of Structure 11, because the side facing the Great Plaza is mostly a forest of trees. Yet the forested side north side is the spectator side not only because it looks down on the Macaw Ballcourt, but also because it looks down on the astronomical constellation of stelae centered around diminutive Structure 4. It also looks down at extraordinary Stella N, and Hieroglyphic Stairway.
Structure 11 stairway appears to be a viewing stand for the ball court, but atop it hidden in the trees is a two story residence completed and used by ruler 16, Yax Pasaj Chan Yopaat, which is very ornate, having a sculpted roof depicting the mythological cosmos. The ruler's view of Structure 4, the symbolic center of the universe of stars or stellae must have been very important, although trees obscure this view today. This structure atop Structure 11 had four doorways with hieroglyphs on the walls of the building. Structure 11 is also known for having the Howler Monkey God which faces the West Court. All this is easier to see from the West Court, although the vertical wall on this side is too steep to climb.
Arguably the most beautiful of the stelae at Copan, Stela A has a well preserved face with a serene expression, and beautiful high relief carving common during the height of Copan's power. Dedicated in AD 731, the name mentioned in the text is that of ruler 13, Waxaklajuun Ub'aah K'awiil. Located in the center of the Great Plaza to the north of Structure 4, Stela A was placed over a cruciform chamber that, when it was discovered, contained offerings in the form of broken pottery fragments. The glyphs for three other kingdoms--Tikal, Palenque, and Calakmul--are inscribed on the south side of Stela A. There's an enormous amount of symbolism woven into this monument. The original of Stela A is in the Copan museum at Exhibit #15.
Parts of this have been removed to the Museum, but on the outside corners of Temple 22 (same as Structure 22) are supernatural witz (mountain) masks, representing the various forms of the God Yax Hal Witznal, or First True Mountain of Creation, which have been compared artistically to the witz monsters found on the corners of Stela B. Access to these are limited, but the southwestern corner is easily viewed. Otherwise go to the museum and see the reconstruction there. Temple 22 covers over part of the Los Jaguares Tunnel, and so covers over at least part of prior Copan Temple or Burial construction. This was completed by Ruler 13, Waxaklajun Ubaah K'awiil around the 20 year of his accession to rule. See also Temple 22, Sculptured Doorway
As one climbs up stairs from the East Court to the top of Structure 22, there are at first becomes a labyrinth of finely carved corners and benches that are obviously ceremonial and sacred in purpose. Inside, there are skulls of the underworld below the platform as it enters a door. Access is restricted to the very inner sanctum of Temple 22, but it's worth poking one's camera lense around the corner to see the details of the beautiful temple door. The benches were completed in time for Ruler 13, Waxaklajun Ubaah K'awiil's, 20th anniversary of accession to power. The Peabody and British Museums each have taken the original Maize God sculptures found Temple 22. The blocks seen at the temple are reproductions, since the originals have been reassembled in the Copan Museum at exhibit #39. See also Temple 22, Witz Corners
Commissioned by Ruler 13, Waxaklajuun Ub'aah K'awiil, in 731AD, the style of this stele is described as being quite different in that the ruler appears to be standing in a cave, and is thus portrayed as a mountain. The edges of the statue has supernatural witz monsters that are also featured on the Witz Corners of Temple 22 at the top, a feature that is recreated in the museum display #41. Overall the art here is a further tribute to the complexity of Mayan cosmology as well as to one of the most productive Copan kings.
Stela E may be the oldest stela in Copan, having been erected elsewhere by Ruler 7, Bahlam Nehn, in 544 AD, then rededicated in front of Structure 1, probably by Ruler 13, 18 Rabbit, during the Late Classical Period. Structure 1 and Stela E are located on the far west side of the Ceremonial Court, appearing at first to be a forested hill with an isolated Stela on it. Although a sign dates Structure 1 to the same date as Stela E, it has been argued in authoritative literature that this jumbled forest of piled blocks and faintly visible staircase is newer than the heavily eroded Stela E by nearly 200 hundred years. The early simple style of this stella most closely resembles Stela I, which sits in a niche in Structure 3, almost directly across the Ceremonial Court. The location relative to Structure 4 appears significant astronomically.
Stela 3 is located on the south side of Structure 4 in the Great Plaza. Although greatly worn, this stela is notable in several ways. First, as was described in the tip about Structure 4, this Stela is clearly set in place according to where Venus was located at the time of it's erection. Or rather, the erection of the stela 3 was performed to satisfy a Mayan astronomical calendar event. Note also that the Stela 3 stone that was quarried for this project has interesting turquoise colored lumps, some of which were carved around. Stela 3 was erected by Ruler 12, K'ahk' Uti' Ha' K'awiil in 652, and represents one of his early contributions made at the middle of his long reign. Unfortunely, the face is missing.
Referred to as Mound 4 on the Copan Guide Map, Structure 4 is an independent smallish sized pyramid of sorts in the center of the Great Plaza, immediately surrounded by Stelae A & 3. This structure is important because it may date back to ruler 1, K'inich Yax K'uk' Mo'. Excavation below this temple done in the 19th century revealed jaguar burial offerings of the type associated with the first ruler, but the outer shell appears to be from the Late Classical Period.
Although this structure is physically smaller to, for example Structure 11 where Ruler 13 is buried and Ruler 16 lived, this structure appears to be huge astronomically. From atop Structure 11, one can see how Structure 4 is the center of a cosmic clock of sorts, and may have provided a landscape of cosmological wonder for Rulers who could look down upon it. Indeed, this explains why Ruler 13 buried himself there, and why Ruler 16 built a residential palace with much cosmological symbolism atop Structure 11, well within view of the Great Plaza and Structure 4.
The placement and date of completion for nearly all of Ruler's 12 and 13 appear closely associated with the planet Venus and it's calendar location within the patterns of stars that we refer to as constellations. This is not only true for Stellae A & 3, but probably also for Stellae 1 and I, erected by Ruler 12, and for the closely bunched group of Stellae erected by Ruler 13 within the ceremonial court, just north of Structure 4. Stellae 2, E, and N may also have cosmological placement according to Structure 4. The very word Stela is, of course, rooted in the Latin word for star, and so the fact that Stelae weren't just planted at random around Copan, but rather placed astronomically seems certain.
The numbering and letter identification of stelae is probably related to the issue of location. The Mayan's were consistent at supplying date inscriptions on stelae so that even broken stellae are correctly dated. However, stella were often moved around, buried, broken, and so it appears that numbered stella MAY be uncertain in terms of where the monument was originally placed. Stela 1 was found in the 19th century, broken in two pieces, and was reassembled to what we have today. Although it is regarded as perhaps one of the oldest stela in the Great Plaza, placement of this Late Classic Period piece may be uncertain if for nothing else its close placement in a niche on the west side stairs of the ball court that had been restored by Ruler 13, some 50 years later. Recalll that Ruler 13 had probably also moved related Stela 2 at the time the ball court was restored. Stela 1 was found atop a cruciform chamber, and similar to some other stelae, pottery fragments were recovered within. But, like Stela 2 showed, Stela/Cruciform Chamber have also sometimes been a mismatch of commemorations. See the link below for a good description of this monument, where there's an analysis of the carving sequence, style, and relationship to Altar Q. Stela 1 glyphs date this to 688AD, and so the worn image is of Ruler 12, K'ahk' Uti' Ha' K'awiil.
There are hundreds of Stela at Copan, and many are simply off the tour guide's radar. One such example is Stela I, which according to the sign was erected during the Late Classic Period (675AD), and because of this date implies that it is an image of the long lived Ruler 12, K'ahk'Uti'Ha'K'awiil (628-695AD), also known as Smoke Imix God K, who did indeed commission the work. This ruler lived to age 79, the longest of any Copan ruler, and on Altar Q, his long age is part of the symbolism for this ruler. This was the golden age for Copan. Stela I apparently is associated with Stela 4 and Tikal Stela 31 for making a common reference to the Copan bat emblem on a particular date. Also, compare the style of this shella with Stellae 2 and P. The quality of Stela I workmanship seems lacking somehow, relative to these others. It's almost as if the posted sign is wrong and this stela came from a much earlier epoch, but I double-checked this with two other authoritative sources. Nevertheless, Stela I stands neatly in a niche near the the corner of Structure 3. The Altar in front is also substantial, even if not intricately carved. It seems possible to me that Ruler 13 or Ruler 16 had Stela I restored to this place during improvement of Structure 3.
Go out and walk to Stela J; You won't be disappointed. Stela J is placed in a remote corner, outside the first wall, just south of the corner of Structure 3, and apparently on the path to the causeway leading to the residential neighborhood, Las Sepulturas. Unlike numerous other stela in the Grupo Principal, Stela J has no image of Ruler 13, Waxaklajuun Ub'aah K'awiil, who erected it in 702AD. It does mention his ascension to the throne, as well as his predecessor, Ruler 12, K'ahk' Uti' Ha' K'awiil (Smoke-Imix-God K). The unusual cross-mat order of the glyphs is representative of royal symbolism, and thus this marker along the trail from noble residences serves as a solemn warning. The altar has some interesting detail, the symbolism of which I could find nothing in the literature.
Apparently there's a tradition of cross-dressing in Copan, where Stela H is yet another a portrait of the 13th ruler, Waxaklahun Ubah K'awil (18 Rabbit), who ruled dedicated this stele in 730 AD. This stele is also paired with Stela A, where Stela H has the ruler dressed as would be the tradition for a woman, while Stela A has him dressed appropriately for male.
Stela H is located in the Great Plaza, just north of Altar G.