Archaeological Area of Palenque
Mexico, Palenque

Palenque is the conditional name of the ruins of a large ancient city, which for a long time remained unknown to the Spanish colonialists. Only at the end of the XVII century - in 1746, a military detachment accidentally stumbled upon the village of Santo Domingo de Palenque, the existence of which the authorities did not suspect. And nearby, in the forest, ancient ruins were found that received the name Palenque from a neighboring village. Palenque ruins are considered one of the most important Mayan archaeological sites in Mexico. During the cultural heyday, Palenque was much more beautiful, because the monuments were covered with decorative stucco, painted in blue tones. The first expedition to explore the city was sent in 1784 and since then Palenque is one of the most studied cities in Mexico. In 1841, researchers John Lloyd Stevens and Frederick Caterwood finally introduced the world to this pearl of Mayan architecture. The ancient city is located among the forested hills. Large pyramids and temples grow in the middle of the canopy of the dark green forest. The combination of nature and ancient ruins gives this place a special aura. A settlement on this site existed from 300 BC, but acquired the status of an important Mayan city of Palenque in the classical period (300 - 900 years). Most of the surviving buildings were built between the 7th and 10th centuries, and he reached the heights of power during the reign of Pakal and his son Chan-Bahlum (600-700). Then the inhabitants left the city, and since this region of Mexico receives the most rainfall, the ruins quickly hid in the dense thickets of the jungle. Today, about a third of the city has been excavated by archaeologists. Wandering between the ruins or exploring the park from the top of high-rise monuments, you can see hills everywhere. For the most part, these are not hills, but Mayan temples and pyramids hidden by the thickets of the jungle. The main advantage of Palenque is not in its size or antiquity. Many other archaeological sites are larger and older. Its importance lies in the fact that it is located in the middle of the jungle, which is not typical for the Mayan tribe, as well as in its architecture and epigraphy (inscriptions). Thanks to epigraphy, archaeologists managed to restore many pages of the city’s history. Palenque differs from any other Mayan archaeological site not only in the richness of relief images and carved decorations, but also in the interesting architecture of its palace. The center of Palenque is the palace - the largest building in the archaeological park. It is a complex of buildings built at different times, and divided into four parts by a labyrinth of corridors, residential and administrative buildings. At first it was believed that the palace served as the residence of rulers and clergy, later they came to the conclusion that it performed administrative functions. Here political and military alliances were concluded with other Mayan city-states, donations were made, it served as a place of entertainment, sacrifice, ritual ceremonies. Three pyramidal “temples” are distinguished in the complex: “Temple of the Sun”, “Temple of the Cross” and “Temple of the inscriptions” with the tomb of Pakal. In 1952, the sarcophagus, where the remains of the ruler of Palenque were located, was opened. The body of the great ruler was richly cleaned with jade jewelry, and a jade mask was put on his face. The sarcophagus is covered with a skillfully carved stove. All treasures were transferred to the Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City. A copy of the famous carved plate remained in Palenque. In 1999, archaeologists found an altar with inscriptions and reliefs depicting the grandson of the ruler of Pakal. The main feature of the palace is a four-story tower, which is not found in any other Mayan city. Thanks to this unique tower, the palace looks almost like a Chinese one. When archaeological research began, many ideas were put forward about what functions it performed. It is believed that from the height of the Mayan tower they watched the rays of the sun fall directly on the Temple of inscriptions on the day of the winter solstice. In 1981, the Mexican government gave Palenque the status of a national park, and since 1987 the ancient city has been included in the UNESCO World Heritage List.

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