Palenque (World Heritage)

Palenque, at the foot of the Chiapas highlands, is an outstanding example of classical Mayan culture. Their heyday lasted from the 6th to the 8th century. Important buildings are the “Temple of Inscriptions” with the grave of Prince Pakal, the palace complex with the 15 m high tower and the Temple of the Sun.

Palenque: facts

Official title: Pre-Columbian city and national park of Palenque
Cultural monument: Palenque, “fortified houses”, among others. with the 21 m high »Pirámide de las Inscripciones«, which is made up of 8 stacked platforms and whose name is due to the 620 characters found here, the »Palace«, on a 10 m high, 100 m long and 80 m wide platform and grouped around 4 inner courtyards, the “Sun Temple”, the “Temple of the Cross” and the “Leaf Cross Temple” with the date 692
Continent: America
Country: Mexico, Chiapas
Location: Palenque, at the foot of the Chiapas Mountains, northeast of San Cristóbal de las Casas
Appointment: 1987
Meaning: one of the outstanding examples of classical Mayan culture

Palenque: history

7th century largest extension of Palenque of about 8 km² under Pakal, who ruled from 615-83
645 Birth of the Chan-Bahlum
650-770 Construction of the “palace”
692 Erection of the “pyramid of inscriptions”
695-730 Construction of the temples II, III, IV and V
702 Death of the ruler Chan-Bahlum and transfer of the dignity to his brother K’an Xul
799 Palenque’s decline after the death of K’an Xul
1832-34 Stay of the archaeologist Jean Frédéric de Waldeck
1841 Stay of the explorer John Lloyd Stephens
1949 Start of investigations inside the “Pyramid of Inscriptions”
1992 extensive excavations
2010 In Palenque, researchers discover the first fountain system in the New World

Rococo in the rainforest

Early in the morning, when after a rainy night the veils of mist over the wooded hills and the sun celebrates its majestic rebirth – the Maya called Palenque the “place where the sun dies in the evening” – the ruined city is surrounded by a mysterious magic, it appears as Relic of a long past fairytale world. Dense tropical rainforest surrounds temples, pyramids and palaces, and this harmonious combination of architecture and nature makes this place one of the most fascinating archaeological sites in all of Central America.

The stones have not yet begun to speak in Palenque either, but thanks to the progress made by research in deciphering the hieroglyphs, successes of rulers, beliefs and ritual ceremonies can be determined relatively precisely. The finds so far date from the 7th and 8th centuries, when Palenque experienced its heyday under the rule of the legendary Pakal, his son Chan-Bahlum – “snake-jaguar” – and under K’an Xul.

In 1952 the archaeologist Alberto Ruz Lhuiller made a sensational discovery. After uncovering a buried staircase inside the imposing “pyramid of inscriptions”, he came to a vault closed by massive stone slabs, which turned out to be a crypt. On the walls there were stucco reliefs depicting nine priests adorned with feather headdresses in solemn procession, and on the floor a huge stone slab decorated with carved reliefs. A young man clad in a loincloth can be seen in the middle. Once they were removed, the way to a sarcophagus of unique beauty was clear. The remains of Pakal were found in it, who wore a death mask made of jade and jade jewelry around his neck. For the first time the thesis was refuted that – unlike in Egypt – the Mayan pyramids were not used as burial sites. According to topb2bwebsites, in the meantime, more tombs and urns have been found under pyramids in Mexico.

The most conspicuous building of Palenque, the so-called “palace”, rises on a trapezoidal platform. The huge complex consists of stairs, colonnaded galleries, courtyards and a good dozen buildings, all of which have a confusing floor plan. A narrow staircase leads up to an elegant, three-story tower which dominates the “palace” on a square base and which originally served astronomical purposes. Everywhere, colorfully painted stucco reliefs and figures as well as stone tablets engraved with characters adorned the walls. The detailed and playful stucco work – a slowly drying stone-clay-tree bark layer made time-consuming processing possible – are an archaeological specialty of Palenque, unlike any other other Mayan sites were found. In their original splendor of colors, the stucco decorations contributed to the rococo aura of the city. Today, unfortunately, most of them are weathered gray.

Another specialty of Palenque are the superbly preserved cantilever vaults. These “false vaults”, in which the upper stone layers of the walls increasingly “overlap” the one below them up to the apex in the middle, cover the buildings and the temples of the pyramids. In connection with the ornate roof ridges, they give the massive structures a playful lightness. The most beautiful example of such a labyrinthine angled roof attachment can be found at the sun temple south of the “palace”. Its chancel is decorated with a relief that symbolizes the sun. The round shield with sun eyes and a pair of crossed lances also represents Pakal, the “sun shield king”.

Palenque (World Heritage)