Friday, April 27, 2018

Palenque - Chiapas State, Mexico

Palenque is a Mayan city located at the base of a mountain range in the State of Chiapas, Mexico. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and considered by many to have the most beautiful of Mayan buildings. It was occupied from 200 to 900 CE. Many of the rulers of Palenque are known, beginning in 431. The most famous was Kinich Janaab Pacal, also known as Pakal the Great, who ruled from 615 to 683. He created a dynasty which, over three generations (four rulers), increased in prosperity. Pakal's son, Chan Bahlum, ruled from 684 to 702, then another son, K'an Joy Chitam II, ruled from 702 to 720, and a grandson, Akul Mo' Naab, ruled from 721 to 736. Monumental building ceased about 800 CE, after hostilities with other cities.  
View of the Palace Complex (right) and Temple of Inscription (left) from the Temple of the Cross. 
Beautiful flowers.
There are springs in the nearby mountainside which are channeled by canals and aqueducts which gave it its ancient name, "The Place of the Great Waters." 

The Temple of the Skull, also known as the Temple of the Dead Moon and Temple XII, is one of the first buildings we saw. It is named after a decoration on one of the pillars. It shares a long rectangular platform with the Temple of the Red Queen, also known as Temple XIII, which gets its name from a woman found in a sarcophagus covered with bright red cinnabar powder.  A theory is that she was the wife of Pakal as her burial chamber was near Pakal's and she had a burial mask and other items similar to those found in the sarcophagus of Pakal. Both were built in the 8th century on layers of other buildings built 100 years earlier. 
Temple of the Skull. 
Temple of the Skull behind these beautiful flowers.
Temple of the Skull.
Temple of the Queen with the awning over it in the center. Above it is the Temple of Inscription and the Palace Complex is to the left. 
Palace Complex from the Temple of the Red Queen.
The Palace is the central complex in Palenque. It is a complex of connected and adjacent buildings and courtyards. It was the center of the city. It was a royal residence and court and had accommodations for others, including military personnel.  It was begun by Pakal and enlarged and remodeled in 654, 661 and 668 CE. It includes a four story Observation Tower, built about 721, and baths and saunas which were supplied fresh water by the aqueduct water system. 
Palace Complex
Palace Complex
Palace Complex. 
Palace Complex
Palace Complex
Inscription from Palace Complex.
Palace Complex from another side.
Palace Complex from base of Temple of the Cross.
The Temple of Inscriptions, a summit building set on a pyramid, began as early as 675 CE as the funerary monument of Pakal. It was completed about 682. It has a glyphic text which records 180 years of history. A tomb was found deep in the pyramid with five or six skeletons from sacrificial victims on the outside, and inside, was the sarcophagus of Pakal. King Pakal was covered in jade and cinnabar and has a life-like jade mosaic death mask that is considered one of the greatest discoveries of Mesoamerican archaeology. It is now in the Archaeological Museum in Mexico City. 
Temple of Inscriptions to the left, as seen from the Palace Complex.
A partial view of the Temple of Inscriptions from the Palace Complex. 
Temple of Inscriptions with Temple of the Red Queen and Temple of the Skull to its right. 
Temple of Inscriptions. 
The Temple of the Cross Complex has three main structures built of limestone. 16th century accounts indicate that the buildings were covered in stucco and decorated with blue and red paint. The main and most impressive structure, the Temple of the Cross, is a step-pyramid built by Chan-Bahlum who reigned between 684 and 702 CE. It is believed that all three of these three main structures were built around 690 CE to celebrate the transition from King Pakal to Chan-Bahlum. It has panels that record Chan-Bahlum's ancestral history,  the divine origin of his lineage and his accession to the throne. It is associated with the God GI, one among a triad of gods (the other gods were GII and GIII). GI had a shell earflare, a square-eye and a fish fin on his cheek. 
Temple of the Cross (upper left) as seen from the Palace Complex. The Temple of the Foliated Cross is partially hidden in the middle. 
Another view of the Temple of the Cross (middle) from the Palace Complex. The Temple of the Sun is partially visible to the right. 
Judy at the top of the Temple of the Cross with her arms outstretched. 
The Temple of the Foliated Cross sits alone on a nearby hill, probably a stepped pyramid, but not uncovered like the Temple of the Cross. It originally looked like the Temple of the Sun with three entrance doorways and four stuccoed piers. It is associated with the God GII. 
Temple of the Foliated Cross. 
Temple of the Foliated Cross to the right and Temple of the Cross is upper left. 
The Temple of the Sun is on a much smaller stepped-pyramid and is associated with the God GIII. 
Temple of the Sun (on the left) as viewed from the top of the Temple of the Cross. Temple IV is to the right. 
Temple of the Sun (to the left) and Temple IV (to the right). 
Temple IV was built around 702 CE after the death of Chan-Bahlum, by his brother Chitam. 
Temple IV in the foreground and Temple of the Sun in the background. 
Same view as above, but from the back side.
Mural from Temple IV.
The Temple of the Count was named after Jean-Frederic Waldeck who lived inside the temple for two years in the 18th century. It was built between 640 and 650 and is the oldest excavated building at Palenque. Three tombs with human bodies and sacrificial offering were found underneath the portico's floor. 
Temple of the Count.
Part of what I believe is called the North Complex, near the Temple of the Count. 
When we visited the temperature was about 98 degrees and the humidity was over 90%. Without continually hacking back the jungle, it just overgrows the buildings. This is much later than Teotihuacan and has obviously borrowed from it (note the steps up the pyramids). We visited with our friends Kasey and Julia who are currently living in Villahermosa, about two hours away by car. 


  1. Looks like an awesome place.

  2. I think this is one of my favorite places in all of Mexico. It is so vast, so mysterious, so Indiana Jones-y. We were lucky to be there on a relatively quiet day--perfect for letting our imaginations link to the past!