Palenque: Part 2: A Lost City

Palenque – A Lost City
A post by Greg

If you haven’t already done so, I suggest starting with part one of this blog post series, about our times in the jungles outside of Palenque, where we saw some of the ruins of the ancient Mayan city in the same state in which they were originally found… It’s ok, you can go and read it now, I’ll wait right here for you.

Are you back? Perfect! Then I shall continue with us crossing a small stream out of the jungle, bidding ‘arrivederci’ to our Italian speaking guide, and entering into the main archeological site of Palenque, the part where many of the buildings have been more or less uncovered.

In my first blog post about our trip to Mexico I talked about Teotihuacan, and it is interesting to contrast these two amazing cities for a moment. While we felt the heat of the sun in both, the site of Palenque, surrounded by jungle, about 500 feet above sea level, felt a world away from the desert ruins at over 7,000 feet which we had seen at Teotihuacan.

While the view from the top of the ‘Pyramid of the Moon’ at Teotihuacan opened out, seeing all of the remaining ruins and stretching out across roads and modern buildings, when you look out from the top of the ‘Temple of the Cross’ in Palenque it is a more restricted and isolated view. You can see a number of buildings and some open space, but on all sides this disappears into jungle, and you can’t see roads or modern buildings.

The views from the top of the ‘Temple of the Cross’ in Palenque ‘Pyramid of the Moon’ in Teotihuacan.

There are a number of features which make Palenque unique, however, and the two which I found perhaps most interesting were the tombs of two men, whose deaths were separated by nearly thirteen centuries!

The first, inside the grand ‘Pyramid of Inscriptions’ belongs to Kʼinich Janaab Pakal, a ruler of Palenque who had died in 683. His tomb was not actually discovered until well into the excavations at the site, when an archaeologist named Alberto Ruz Lhuillier noticed that a stone inside the pyramid actually had holes in it, which were plugged with other stones.

Ruz Lhuillier realised that these holes would have been used to lower the large stone into place – suggesting that it was some form of doorway. Moving the stone uncovered the entrance to a stairway, covered in rubble.

The rubble took four years to clear out, until in 1952 Alberto Ruz Lhuillier finally found out just how special his find was as he entered the tomb of Pakal, still intact with statues and, wearing a mask made of jade, the skeleton of Pakal himself.

Facing the entrance to the pyramid of inscriptions is a far smaller tomb, but one which is incredibly poignant. For here is the last resting place of Alberto Ruz Lhuillier himself, after the Mexican Government gave special permission for him to be laid to rest among the ruins he had worked so hard to reveal to the world. To see that the archaeological study of the site has now become part of the history and structure of the site itself is a real connection between the days of Pakal and the modern era!

If you want to see some more of the site, be sure to watch our video ‘Mexico: Mayan Mystery and Marine Majesty’.

Thank you for reading, and safe travels.



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