"Years after the other kings were identified the first figure on Altar Q remained a mystery. Dressed differently from the others and wearing the eye-goggles of the Central American rain god, many Maya scholars believed this figure must surely be a god.
Then David Stuart found his name hidden in plain sight."
Ok, so now we know this 'Green Quetzal Macaw' person was the first ruler of Copan and some guy called David Stuart figured out who he was. But who on earth was he? And why is he important?
Well, he was the first known ruler of Copan, and founded the city as we know it today (except it was in good condition then). That's got to be important. He also started the dynasty that ruled Copan for over 400 years and 16 rulers. Before him, however, the city was actually created in about 159, but before Green Quetzal Macaw, the sculptures and monuments didn't use Mayan inscriptions.
It is suspected that Green Quetzal Macaw had a childhood in the nearby city of Tikal, and he may have had some connection with the city of Teotihuacán (which is probably not a city of the Maya culture). As Teotihuacán was considered the birthplace of the gods in some other cultures, namely the Aztecs, and the way Green Quetzal Macaw is usually depicted seems very similar to the goggle-eyed Aztec rain god, Tlaloc, we can see this connection; however, there is no evidence that Green Quetzal Macaw physically went to Teotihuacán.
Some theories suggest that the later ruler of Copan or Green Quetzal Macaw himself used this connection as a means of 'justifying' his rule. As he may have had genetic connections to the powerful and influential ruler of Teotihuacan, Spearthrower Owl, the idea that he was related to these rulers seemed to 'legitimize' the kingship of him and his successors.
It is currently believed that Green Quetzal Macaw is buried in a tomb in Copan's Acropolis, where it was found in an excavation in 2000. The skeletal remains show evidence of injuries to the arm, sternum (chest), and shoulder, which is generally thought to be from playing the Mesoamerican ball game. It is also estimated that he was over 50 years old when he died.
One very interesting thing about Green Quetzal Macaw is that his arrival at Copan corresponds with the beginning of the 9th batkun, according to the Maya calendar. The fact that he arrived on the beginning of this sacred interval may have made him seem 'god-like' to the Maya living at Copan.
And another odd thing--the collapse of Copan is closely linked to this 9th batkun. It seems as the end of the batkun grew near, the grand city of Copan began to lose its power--and at the end of the 9th batkun, at the end of these 400 years, Copan is falling.
The structure in Copan known to archaeologists as 'Altar Q,' created by the 16th king of Copan, was a key figure in the discovery of who exactly Green Quetzal Macaw was. By reading the hieroglyphs on the altar, they found out the names of 15 kings--but not the first one, the king who was passing the crown to the 16th ruler. Under the carving of him, where his name should have been, there was only the hieroglyph for "lord."
It was supposed this man was a god, considering his similarity to the Aztec rain god, Tlaloc, but the explorer David Stuart seems to have found out who he was. Apparently, the parts of his name was hidden in his appearance--a quetzal feather, a macaw head, and the symbols for 'sun' and 'yax,' which could mean either green or blue. His name is still debated, as some references call him 'Great-sun First Quetzal Macaw,' while others call him 'Sun-eyed Green Quetzal Macaw,' the name I have used here. Of course, the best way to say his name is really ''K'inich Yax K'uk Mo'."