As you play through the Paititi area of SOTTR you will notice this stela.
As you can see the one pictured in the game bares a strong resemblance to Stela “A” or 18 Rabbit. There are other stela of 18Rabbit, but this one is the closest to the one in the game. Though the name is unusual, it is the name of a famous ruler of Copan (a major Maya classic era kingdom that enjoyed power from the 5th to 9th centuries A.D.), and is where this stela resides. Yes, indeed this is Maya. Shadow of the Tomb Raider mixed a lot of Maya and pre-Inca culture with the architecture and artifacts. I found it fascinating to wade through the large Paititi hub and analyze the head spinning archaeology I know were there due to the actual real-life inspiration.
So now that we have the stela targeted and its location in our sight, let’s explore Stela “A” as seen in Shadow of the Tomb Raider.
We know that this stela is called 18-Rabbit. Who was 18- Rabbit?
Died: May 3, 738
Death place: Quiriguá, Guatemala
18-Rabbit also known as “Uaxaclajuun Ub’aah K’awiil”, was the 13th ruler also known as a k’uhul ajaw (“divine lord”) of the powerful Maya settlement Copán located in what we know today as Honduras. He ruled from January 2, 695, to May 3, 738.
Uaxaclajuun Ub’aah K’awiil aka 18-Rabbit took the throne after the 12th ruler, Smoke Imix, passed away. One of the first items on the agenda for Uaxaclajuun Ub’aah K’awiil was to commission a structure for the remains of the previous ruler, and the name of this structure was the Esmeralda Structure that would house the remains of Smoke Imix.
By building the Esmeralda structure for Smoke, the Papagayo temple that was constructed 250 years before was ritually terminated. But that was not all 18-Rabbit did. When you visit Copan, you will want to see the famous Hieroglyphic Stairway. This famed stairway is located on the east side of the Esmeralda and was constructed under the orders of 18-Rabbit or Uaxaclajuun Ub’aah K’awiil.
What is the hieroglyphic Stairway?
The stairway escalates to nearly 70’ and is made of 62 steps created from over 1200 blocks of stone. It is said there are over 2000 hieroglyphs on these steps and it is also the longest hieroglyphic Maya text ever discovered. However, this enormous task of creating this stunning piece did not happen overnight. It was not finalized until the 15th ruler K’ak Yipyaj Chan K’awiil aka Smoke Shell announced its completion after he refurbished an area of the stairway.
It was somewhat of a shame that an error arose from the re-construction of parts of the steps in the early 20th century. Due to a lack of knowledge in reading Maya glyphs, the archaeologists that attempted to put temple 26 back together did not pay attention to the textual content of the glyphs and put the steps together erroneously and this rendered the glyphs difficult at best to decipher. Today with the advancement of Maya language, archaeologists better understand the meaning of the stairway and are still diligently at work on the complete translation. However, it is now believed that it traces the royal linage of 18-Rabbit. And other Maya rulers.
During his rule he created another very impressive structure known as 10L-22 or Temple 22. (Schwerin, 2011) It is a sacred temple symbolic of a sacred man-made mountain. It is believed that the inner chamber was the place of sacrificial bloodletting ceremonies. The inner entrance of this enormous structure is in the shape of a large leviathan which in turn represents the mouth of the cave and the entrance into Xibalba the Maya underworld. His stela pictured in this article sits in the courtyard in the Maya settlement of Copan. It is dated 732 A.D.
About Temple 22
When you enter this massive structure, you will notice that the threshold sports an image that is the Maya Sky-Band and that is supported by two Bakabs. These are the creator gods of the Maya mythos who were responsible for holding up the sky. These stand on top of Witz Monster pedestals. The word “witz” translates into “sacred mountain” and it is believed by the Maya that the mountain dwells within them. There is a giant snake body that weaves across the top of the archway and his coils hold other beings between them. All this unusual artistry points to Xibalba in the Maya mythos which they believed resides beneath the temple. This temple structure is a representation of the cosmos, which makes sense when you consider how much the Maya knew about the stars, and a place that the ruler of Copan who built it 18Rabbit could be with other god-rulers and kings in the afterlife. For they believed they lived there, too.
So, in other words this temple was significant in their world and represented a porthole into their underworld and a place to eternal life with their ancestors.
You can find more information by going here:
The Fate of a King
He was captured and beheaded. That was the fall of Copan to the Quirigua. However, it is thought that Cauac Sky did not act alone. More than likely he recruited the forces from Calakmul and its ruler to defeat Copan.
Thank you for reading! I shall be back with more information about Copan, the Maya, pre-inca and the Inca civilazations and much more. Stay tuned, for this is a growing project. Next up shall be the Tumi knife!
Explore the World!
Caneva, G., Salvadori, O., Ricci, S., & Ceschin, S. (2005). Ecological analysis and biodeterioration processes over time at the Hieroglyphic Stairway in the Copàn (Honduras) archaeological site. Plant Biosystems, 139(3), 295-310. Retrieved 11 27, 2018, from
Schwerin, J. v. (2011). THE SACRED MOUNTAIN IN SOCIAL CONTEXT. SYMBOLISM AND HISTORY IN MAYA ARCHITECTURE: TEMPLE 22 AT COPAN, HONDURAS. Ancient Mesoamerica, 22(02), 271-300. Retrieved 11 27, 2018