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In a sense, the discovery of the Hunal tomb was the result of a catastrophe. When the Copán River in its previous course cut through the Acropolis of the ancient city, precious architecture was destroyed. But the silver lining was an enormous cross-section revealing the different layers of construction. This made possible a procedure described for Mesoweb by William Fash, overall director of the archaeological work at Copán. Archaeologists were essentially able to choose a level, tunnel in and follow the floor to the side of a given building, then follow the building's perimeter to its stairs and up the stairs into the temple.

Looking back toward daylight in the tunnel that enters Temple 16. Photo: Joel Skidmore.