Freedom8 Mesoamerica




 

Palenque
sits proudly in Palenque National Park in the state of Chiapas and is easiest reached from Villahermosa, Tabasco which is about 120 kilometers away. The modern town of Palenque has many travel options to get to the ruins, and a full range of accommodations. Palenque is considered a major site and compares with Tikal, Copán and Chichen Itzá. Its development peaked in the late Classic period, between 600 and 800 A.D., although its beginnings date to as early as 200 A.D. and was a viable city until some time around 900 A.D. The region around Palenque is a dense rain forest. The site covers 15 square miles, however, the actual total size and extension of the city is still unknown. The only area explored to date is one fourth of the overall settlement. Here, the majority of the larger structures were built to make full use of the features of the ground. Palenque features many decorative motifs not found anywhere else. Some of these motifs seem almost to be from the Far East, giving rise to speculation about a Maya - Asia connection. To my knowledge, however, there is no real evidence to support the speculation. The studies of hieroglyphics and ceramics indicate that Palenque was a trade center at the end of the classic period and was closely aligned with the cities along the Usumacinta River which are Bonampak and Yaxchilan.
The Palace Complex is certainly one of the most striking buildings at Palenque and dominates the central area of reconstructions. The palace contains a myriad of courtyards and structures with some of the finest inscriptions ever carved by the Maya.
The Temple of Inscriptions, the most famous of Palenque's structures, gets its name from three large panels with hieroglyphic inscriptions located on the temple atop this nine tier, staired base. It is a very interesting temple and besides being the tallest, it also housed the crypt of Pac Kal. For some, this is the most important Mayan tomb yet found. The chamber walls have stuccoed portrayals of nine richly attired personages, who may be the nine lords of the night. There is also a stone sarcophagus covered by an engraved tablet. The crypt housed many fine objects. The most famous piece, a jade mosaic death mask. The structure is replete with fine stucco relief's and contains subterranean passages much like those found recently at Ek Balam in the Yucatan.
The Temple of the Sun was built sometime between 642 and 690 A.D. It has one of the best-preserved roof combs of any Mayan site. The roof comb had no structural function. It was all show and has been said to be analogous to a headdress worn by a king. Airy and comparatively delicate, the roof combs generally haven't survived the years of abandonment and jungle growth as well as the stronger pyramids. In their time, the roof combs were colorfully painted, and still serve as an inspiration for much contemporary Mexican art and architecture. This Temple's roof is decorated with the beautiful stucco figures.
The Temple of the Jaguar is perhaps the most intriguing example of similarities to Asiatic art. There is a Foliated Cross that resembles one found at Angkor Wat in Cambodia, and some of the bas-reliefs are very similar to those used in Hindu art.
Unlike most Mayan cities that depended on cenotes, wells or man made cisterns called chultun. Palenque is near the Otulum River, and water actually crosses the site. There is evidence of a water aqueduct directly from the river to the city.