Sunday, April 29, 2018

Comalcalco - Tabasco State, Mexico

The archaeological site of Comalcalco is the westernmost Maya city, 32 miles northwest of Villahermosa in Tabasco State, relatively close to the Gulf of Mexico. 
This map, from the Archaeological Museum in Mexico City, shows Comalcalco to the upper left. Palenque, which we also visited, is southeast of Comalcalco. 
It is the only major Maya city to have buildings constructed of fired clay bricks instead of limestone, due to the lack of limestone in the area. The bricks are irregular and made by cutting varying lengths of clay, as opposed to out of molds. The mortar that held the bricks together was made of calcinated seashells, including oysters. 
This iguana is resting on a series of bricks and mortar. 
This lizard carved into a clay brick seems fitting. It was in the on-site museum. 
Comalcalco flourished from around 550 CE to 1000 CE when it was abandoned. It was likely involved in the production of cacao and was a trading link between the Gulf Coast and the Yucatan Peninsula. 

Temple 1 is a pyramid structure, the first structure to meet our eye and the most dominating structure at the site. It is on the west end of a plaza that stretches out to the east and reminds me of Teotihuacan. The east side of the pyramid has stairs that go 66 feet up, passing through 10 tiers, to the top. 
This re-creation shows Temple 1 at the west end of the plaza. 
This re-creation is a view from the top of Temple 1 looking east. The Acropolis is to the back right.  Temples II and IIa are to the left, Temples III, IIIa and IIIb are to the right, and Temples VIII, VII and VI are behind them, higher up. 
Temple I to the lest and Temple III to the right as we first walked up. 
Stretching out east of Temple 1 is a plaza with structures on both the north and south side. Temple II is the closest structure to Temple 1 on the north side. We got to it by a fairly steep climb up the side of a hill. 
The top of Temple II.
Temple 1 from Temple II.
On the other side of the plaza, the south side, is Temple III, then Temples IIIa and IIIb stretching to the east. 
Temple III.
South of the plaza, and up on an artificial hill, is what is called the Great Acropolis which has a palace and some temples. Stretching out to the west is a spur of the Acropolis which has Temples VI, VII and VIII, from east to west. Temple VI is also known as the Temple of the Mask, because a mask of the sun god Kinich Ahau is found in stucco between staircases. 
Looking up at Temples VI, VII and VIII. Judy is going up a walkway to the left. 
This photo, from the Acropolis, shows Temples VI, VII and VIII in the foreground, Temple 1 to the back left, and Temple II to the right of it. 
The mask of the sun god in Temple VI. 
The Acropolis is a jumble of buildings which includes a palace and Temple V, and off to the west what I believe is Temple IX on top of the Tomb of the Nine Lords of the Night. 
The Palace to the left and Temple V is center. 
I believe this is the remains of Temple IX. 
From the back of the Palace. Temple I is visible at the back and right of center. 
A view back to the southwest. 
My favorite part of the site was the abundance of iguanas. I could have spent the entire time looking for them. 

The heat, in the high 90s, and humidity, over 90%, were stifling. I was sweating through my clothes. This was my least favorite part of the site. 

Maya religion is fairly complex and not something we got much into. There is some animal sacrifice, and even a little human sacrifice. If we get into Maya country again I would like to learn more about the religion. 
This clay figure of a head looks like some of the representations of heads we saw in Palenque. It appears that Palenque may have conquered Comalcalco at some point leading to similarities in architecture. 

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.