At the care of the Jungle

Palenque, the name with which we currently know this mysterious pre-Hispanic city, means "roofed or fenced place". But his real name is "Bakal-Ham" which means "many waters".

The city was inhabited from the year 300 a. and. c., but the main area and buildings were erected between the eight and nine centuries e. c., which is when Palenque reached its peak. Later it was abandoned for unknown reasons.

The jungle and time covered it until it was "discovered" in 1773 and, mysteriously, it was not relocated until 1784.

This is a Mayan city that is discovered and forgotten through the centuries, as if it were temporarily lost to be discovered with ever more splendor, always sowing more doubts than answers in the researchers and archaeologists who, in each expedition, discover new elements, only to realize that the mysteries seem to keep growing.

It is important to remember that the jungle does not stop its growth, and explorers from any time before the twentieth century were not distinguished by being gentle and careful, so it is understandable that each subsequent expedition encountered a panorama where vegetation "ate" to the structures.

There, in the middle of the jungle, fire was the fastest method to clean the place. The cost of losing these shares was only appreciated until you saw the structures up close.

In 1841, the American writer and traveler John Lloyd Stephens published a work that attracted attention to Palenque and aroused worldwide curiosity towards the Mayan civilization; with affirmations such as:

"Of all the romanticism in the history of the world, nothing has impressed me as much as the spectacle of this city, once great and beautiful, and today demolished, desolate and lost."

Palenque truly came out of oblivion thanks to two Americans: the journalist John L. Stephens and the brilliant cartoonist Frederick Catherwood. The precision of Catherwood's drawings is due to the fact that he worked with the help of a lucida camera, the ancestor instrument of the camera. His book, Incidents of Travel in Central America, which was published in New York in 1842, was a great success. From this, the scientific missions take place, aimed at recovering and restoring the main buildings.

The main attraction of Palenque is not the temples and structures, but its content embodied in hieroglyphics, pictorial representations and reliefs. Simply imagine that a structure is called "Temple of the Inscriptions" to size the wealth of Mayan mysteries that are hidden there.

The news regarding the Temple of the Inscriptions was scarce until 1949, when the Mexican archaeologist Alberto Ruz Lhuillier discovered a large stone slab on the floor of the temple. When he withdrew he found the beginning of a stairway blocked by a mass of rubble that his team took three years to clear. Then, at ground level, he discovered a vertical triangular tombstone.

When removing the slab, Lhuillier opened a tomb that had been closed for more than a thousand years. He described it as "a huge empty room that seemed carved in ice." In all the walls there were reliefs that represented the nine Lords of the Night venerated by the Mayans. There was found a 5-ton tombstone placed on a sarcophagus.

Inside the sarcophagus they found the remains of a man. His body and face were covered with jade jewelry that contrasted with the red lining of the tomb. The funerary mask, made of jade mosaic and inlaid with obsidian and nacre in the eyes, is the famous piece "Mask in jade of King K'inich Janaab 'Pakal", one of the most recognized treasures in the world, and now exposed to permanent way in the National Museum of Anthropology and History of Mexico.

Other important buildings are the Palace, the Three Temples; the one of the Cross, the one of the Sun and the one of the Foliated Cross, the Aqueduct, the Temple of the Lions, a Game of Ball and others, including residences, tombs and small temples.

A visit to the archaeological site includes the observation of about one hundred structures of different sizes; simple and complicated, in each space of the irregular terrain of 2.5 kilometers. Some people estimate that less than 10% have been unearthed, and it is believed that there is much more under the Chiapas jungle.

Palenque still has many surprises to give us, and perhaps, any visitor reveals a new enigma of this ethereal place.

Galería - Palenque

Admire the architectural beauty of Palenque with this photos

Palenque | México360

Take a virtual tour through this Archaeological Site

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Learn more about Palenque's history with this audio guide


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