The Archaeological Park and Ruins of Quirigua comprise an ancient Maya site, which contains some outstanding 8th-century monuments that were constructed during the reign of Cauac Sky.
Quirigua remains important due largely to its wealth of sculpture, including the tallest stone monuments ever erected in the New World. They include carved stelae and sculpted calendars that constitute an essential source for the study of Mayan civilization.
Map of Quirigua
Roy C. Frink
I appreciate the way the various organizations that could have ruined Quirigua have preserved and beautified the site. It was a thrill for me to climb the large stone temple building and look back at those magnificent, tall, twisted trees surrounding the large carvings. I have been interested in the Mayan mystery ever since teaching 7th and 8th grade history in the 1980's. I am increasingly convinced that the people who built these incredible stone cities came from Egypt, probably on the reed boats. The building technique is so similar to the early Egyptian "step" pyramids.
W. Robin Upton
I was in Bananera in, I think 1970, looking into the construction of worker housing. We were taken on hand-driven rail cars to the Quirigua site. One entered via a long tunnel through the jungle and suddenly exited onto the site. A breathless experience going from the dense jungle canopy unto this field of giant stelae. The field was quite well maintained. Some other excavations seemed to be in progress, but by whom? The United Fruit Company maintained the entrance and the grassy area where the stelae were, but were not involved with the excavations. The descriptions elsewhere on this site conform to mine. We went two or three times, but we met but one American backpacker. It is not Tikal, but the stelae are wonderful, indeed.
As an archaeologist, I found Quirigua interesting, but I do not recommend it to tourists. Stop if you happen to be passing by, and check out the tallest of all the Maya stelae and some cool zoomorphic sculptures. However, don't expect much else - the site is tiny, the environment is extremely muggy, and the artwork is a lower-quality knock-off of that at nearby Copan, Honduras. Definitely, definitely, definitely visit Copan! Copan and Tikal are the two Maya sites everyone should visit, in my opinion.
The ruins of Quirigua in Guatemala do not in any way compare with those of the “nearby” Mayan cities of Tikal and Copan or of those in Yucatan such as Palenque, Chichen Itza and Uxmal. Its main advantage is its relatively easy access from Guatemala City 220 kms away on the main highway to Puerto Barrios. If you have the time or are passing relatively near by on your way to Copan (with which Quirugia was closely associated culturally) or the coast then it is certainly worth the slight detour to take in this WHS.
Its main “glory” lies in the collection of “stelae”, 9 of which are laid out around a “football field sized” central grass plaza. The remainder of the city, which dates from 8th century is largely un-restored, so you will not see the profusion of ball courts and pyramids of other Mayan cities. The stelae are however considered the finest examples of Mayan carving anywhere and, because of the hardness of the local sandstone (elsewhere the Mayans tended to use limestone), have been preserved in amazing detail
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