Copan is an archaeological site of the Maya civilization located in the Copan Department of western Honduras, not far from the border with Guatemala. It was the capital city of a major Classic period kingdom from the 5th to 9th centuries AD. The city was located in the extreme southeast of the Mesoamerican cultural region, on the frontier with the Isthmo-Colombian cultural region, and was almost surrounded by non-Maya peoples. In this fertile valley now lies a city of about 3000, a small airport, and a winding road.
Copan was occupied for more than two thousand years, from the Early Preclassic period right through to the Postclassic. The city developed a distinctive sculptural style within the tradition of the lowland Maya, perhaps to emphasize the Maya ethnicity of the city's rulers. The city has a historical record that spans the greater part of the Classic period and has been reconstructed in detail by archaeologists and epigraphers. Copan, probably called Oxwitik by the Maya, was a powerful city ruling a vast kingdom within the southern Maya area. The city suffered a major political disaster in AD 738 when Uaxaclajuun Ubaah Kawiil, one of the greatest kings in Copans dynastic history, was captured and executed by his former vassal, the king of Quirigua.
This unexpected defeat resulted in a 17-year hiatus at the city, during which time Copan may have been subject to Quirigua in a reversal of fortunes. Copan is located in western Honduras close to the border with Guatemala. Copan lies within the municipality of Copan Ruinas in the department of Copan. It is situated in a fertile valley among foothills at 700 meters (2,300 ft) above mean sea level. The ruins of the site core of the city are located 1.6 kilometers (1 mi) from the modern village of Copan Ruinas, which is itself built on the site of a major complex dating to the Classic period.