Palenque is a Maya city which is located in the Mexican state of the Chiapas, close to the river Usumacinta. It is one of the most impressive sites of this culture. Compared with the other Maya cities, it is of intermediate size: much smaller than Tikal or Copán, it is characterized nevertheless by its architectural and sculptural heritage.
The zone discovered until in 2005 represents 2,5 km ² but one estimates to have explored less than 10% of the total surface area of the city. It remains even more than thousand structures covered by the forest. In 1981, the site of Palenque was indicated “Protected area”. It was registered on the Liste of the world heritage of UNESCO in 1987.
Palenque is one of the richest sites of the south of the Mexico, with the limit of the peninsula of the Yucatan. Among accessible constructions, one can note:
- the Pyramid of the inscriptions;
- the Palate
- the Temple of the Cross;
- the Temple of the leafy Cross;
- the Temple of the sun;
- play of ball;
- the northern Group.
Architecture presents a Western alternative of the Maya style.
The Maya name of the city east Lakam ha , which means “Large water”, in reference to the many sources and cascades which one can find through the city. The city was already abandoned at the time of the Conquête of Mexico at the 16th century. The first European who went to Palenque was Frère Pedro Lorenzo of Nada in 1567. At that time, the area was known of the people Chol under the name of Otolum , or “Ground of the strong houses”. Of Nada this translated roughly into Spanish to give the name of Palenque which means “fortification”. Palenque became also the name of the city (Santo Domingo de Palenque) which was built in the vicinity. Another theory concerning the origin of the word Palenque gives a report on the Maya name bahlam kin (jaguar sun) which could have indicated the place where the sun plunged in the inframonde, the kingdom of the jaguar.
Palenque was the capital of the state of the traditional time B' akaal.
Palenque in the modern history
Redécouverte at the 17th century
The community of Santo Domingo de Palenque was founded in the neighborhoods of the archeological site about the 17th century. There does not exist any trace of any interest carried to the city given up before 1773, when Don Ramón de Ordoñez there Aguilar went and submitted there his report/ratio with the General Captain of the Guatemala. The year which followed, they there went back and issued that these ruins were of a great interest. Thus two years later, the explorer and architect Antonio Bernasconi were sent there to examine the places, accompanied by a military quota directed by Colonel Antonio del Río. During these explorations in the given up city, the troops caused the collapse of certain walls to penetrate inside constructions, thus causing irreversible damage. Bernasconi drew the first chart of the city and made copies of some Bas-reliefs.
Explorations at the 19th century
In 1807, the draftsman Luciano Castañeda made other plans of the city. Thanks to the contained informations in the reports/ratios of preceding forwardings, including etchings inspired of the drawings of Bernasconi and Castañeda, the first book on Palenque was published in London in 1822 under the title of Descriptions off the Ruins off year Ancient City, discovered near Palenque (“Description of the ruins of an old city, discovered close to Palenque”). In 1834 appeared two other publications inspired of the same sources.
Until the beginning of the 19th century, one thought that the silhouettes of the sculptures and low-reliefs of Palenque represented Égyptiens, Polynésie NS or the Ten tribes lost of Israel. In 1831, the military explorer Juan Galindo was the first to be noted in his report/ratio of visit in Palenque which these silhouettes resembled local populations more.
In 1832, the antique dealer, cartographer and explorer French Jean-Frederic Waldeck spent two years to Palenque, on the Northern group, and drew there drafts which were published in 1866. During this time, in 1840, the governor of the British Honduras, sent Patrick Walker and Herbert Caddy, then John Lloyd Stephens and Frederick Catherwood to undertake the first scientific study on this site. The following year, the English published an illustrated description of the city, more provided than of other former titles.
The French photographer Désiré Charnay took the first stereotypes of Palenque in 1858 and went back there in 1881/1882. The British explorer Alfred Maudslay installed a camping with Palenque in 1890 and took there many photographs of the works of art and inscriptions of which it made then mouldings of paper and plastic.
Explorations at the 20th century
There were thereafter various forwardings whose most interesting of Frans Blom in 1923 is certainly that. It drew charts of the already known part of the city but also of other less explored zones and decided to send his report/ratio, accompanied by recommendations as for the measures to be taken to preserve these ruins, with the Mexican government.
Between 1949 and 1952, the Mexican government, via the Instituto Nacional de Antropología E Historia or INAH (National institute of Anthropology and History), sent a team of excavations and research directed by the Mexican archeologist Alberto Ruz the Oilcan. Inter alia contributions of this team, one distinguishes the discovery, under the Temple of the inscriptions, the tomb of Pacal Large the ( K' inich Janaab Pakal ). Of no to date regard it as the most important discovery of tomb for all the zone mésoaméricaine. Ruz was the first human being to observe the tomb in addition to thousand years. Later on, in the years 1970, Jorge Acosta directed another forwarding of the INAH. At this same time, the INAH on the spot built an archaeological museum of the name of Museo de Sitio Dr. Alberto Ruz the Oilcan (“Museum of the site Dr. Alberto Ruz the Oilcan”).
In 1973, Merle Green Robertson instigated the first of the “Roundtables” of Palenque, series of meeting of specialists in the Mayas, having for objective to discuss and examine the new discoveries. Robertson contributed to the exploration of Palenque, especially with regard to the census of the vestiges of color on the sculptures. Since, the archaeological research activities continued almost without interruption. The activities of the Roundtables began again in 1995.
It is in 1983 that Juan Lorenzo LED castillo, and Sergio Juarez Biñol deciphered the famous symbols of the statue of Burña, not very famous representation of king Otolum at the beginning of his reign.
History of Maya Palenque
Information available is the fruit of archaeological research last and present. Indeed of new data are brought to our attention in a continuous way, which can constantly make evolve/move the established assumptions. The information presented in this article takes again the prospect accepted at the beginning for XXIe century on Palenque.
It is estimated that the Mayas founded Lakam ha during the preclassical era (2 500 av. J. - C. - 300 a. J. - C.), towards 100 av. J. - C. It was then a mainly agricultural small village profiting from many sources and river from the area. This fertile area, profiting from an average temperature from 26°C and the most important precipitations of Mexico (annual average 2.156 mm) probably allowed an agriculture whose fruits exceeded the needs for the inhabitants who could make the trade of it. The inscriptions indicate that the city itself, is born in IVe century. under the aegis of its first Lord, K' the U.K.B' alam (431).
The population increased during the early traditional era (200-600), to become a city then the capital of the area of B' akaal (bone) which joined the zone of the Chiapas and of Tabasco during the late traditional era (600-900). Among the discovered structures, oldest was built about year 600.
B' akaal was an important center of the Maya Civilization between Ve and IXe century. For this period followed one another glorious and catastrophic episodes, alliances and wars. On more than one occasion, B' akaal was combined with Tikal, the other large city Maya of the time, and this especially with an aim of limiting the expansion of the quarrelsome city of Calakmul, so known under the name of “Kingdom of the snake”. Calakmul overcame twice, into 599 and 611.
The Lords of B' akaal proclaimed that their line went back to an extremely remote past. Some went even until being praised owing to the fact that it went back to prehistoric times, or even from the creation of the world which, in Maya mythology, took place in the year 3 114 av. J. - C. According to the modern archaeological theories, the first dynasty to have reigned was probably Olmèque.
Early traditional era
The first Lord of B' akaal (named Ajaw ) on which one has information was K' the U.K.B' alam (Quetzal Jaguar), that one named sometimes Gran Señor de Toktan (Large Lord of Toktan). He controlled during four years from 431. Its succession was ensured by the ajaw that the archeologists named Gasparín . Both ajaw following were probably the wire of Gasparín . One knew very little of it about the first wire, B' utz Aj Sak Chiik , until in 1994 one discovers a board describing a ritual around the ajaw . On this same board, one described his successor Ahkal Mo' Naab I like a young prince. This is why it was thought that there was to be family ties between them. For reasons which one is unaware of, Ahkal Mo' Naab I profited from a great prestige. The Lords who succeeded to him posted a great pride because of being its descendants.
After the death of Ahkal Mo' Naab I in 524, there was vacuum a four years and it is thus into 529 that the ajaw according to was crowned in Toktán . K' year Joy Chitam I was with the capacity during thirty-six years. Thereafter, its sons Ahkal Mo' Naab II and K' year B' alam I controlled successively, except during one intermediate period to which one is unaware of if there were a ajaw and which was its name. K' year B' alam I was the first ajaw to use the nickname of Kinich , or “large sun”, which was then used by the following Lords. Yol Iknal , certainly its daughter, succeeded to him into 583. The found inscriptions with Palenque report a battle which took place under its reign. April 21st, 599, the troops of Calakmul invaded Palenque and reflect the city with bag, a military fact without precedents.
Approximately twelve years later, in 611, Calakmul knew one second victory under the reign of Aj Ne' Ohl Mat , wire of Yol Iknal . On this occasion, the ajaw of Calakmul entered Palenque personally, thus reinforcing the direction of this military defeat which was followed from one period of political disorder. Aj Ne' Ohl Mat died into 612.
Late traditional era
B' akaal started the submerged late traditional era of a disorder caused by the defeats against Calakmul. The texts going back to 613 are pessimistic: “Lost is the divine lady, lost is the king”, and report that certain fundamental rites were not carried out at that time. But no mention was made of a Lord.
After the death of Aj Ne' Ohl Mat it seems that a man of the name of Janaab Pakal , also sometimes called Pakal I under the terms of a political agreement, seized the power. Janaab Pakal took up the duties of the ajaw but it was never crowned. In 612 succeeded to him his/her daughter, Sak K' the U.K. which only controlled during three years. It is considered that it is as from this moment that the dynasty was renewed. B' akaal then took again the way of glory and splendor.
His/her son is most famous of the Maya Lords, K' inich Janaab' Pakal , so known under the name of Pacal the large one. As soon as it was twelve years old, in 615, it reigned on Palenque, until in 683. When it arrived at the capacity, the city was in full decline. In spite of that, famous being protected from the gods, it led Palenque to a level of splendor ever equalized. Pacal the large one married the princess Oktán into 624 and they had two wire.
It built the major part of the palates and the temples of Palenque, of which the Temple Olvidado (forgotten Temple, to 5 km in the south of the Palate), the Temple of the inscriptions and the Temple of the Count. The Sarcophage of stone which shelters its body is always visible in a room under the Pyramid of the inscriptions and the masks in Stuc as well as the faces of the columns of the palate indicate its genealogy. The city was more flourishing than ever, and eclipsed even Tikal. The central architectural unit that one calls the Palate was increased and reorganized on various occasions, especially into 654,661 and 668. It is in this structure which one found attesting a text that at that time, Palenque had recently sealed an alliance with Tikal, and Yaxchilan. They captured six enemy Lords of alliance. It was impossible to draw more details of this text.
After the death of Pacal the large one in 683, his/her oldest son K' inich Kan B' alam became the Lord of B' akaal, then succeeded to him, in 702, his/her brother, K' year Joy Chitam II . The elder one continued architectural and sculptural works that his/her father had initiated, and it completed the construction of the famous tomb of Pacal the large one. Moreover he instigated ambitious projects as the group of the Cross. (Temple of the Cross, Temple of the leafy Cross and Temple of the Sun). Thanks to the many works of art carried out under his reign, one could find on various sculptures of the portraits of this ajaw . His/her brother succeeded and continued this dash manufacturer to him and artistic with same enthusiasm. He rebuilt and increases the northern side of the Palate. Thanks to the reign of these three Lords, B' akaal knew one century of prosperity and splendor.
In 711, Palenque was besieged by the kingdom of Toniná which made captive the old Lord K' inich K' year Joy Chitam II . One is unaware of which was the fate of this ajaw but it is supposed that it was carried out and decapitated in Toniná. There was no ajaw for one ten years period, until the crowning of K' inich Ahkal Mo' Nab' III in 722. This new Lord belonged to the royalty, but there is no certainty as for the fact that he is a direct heir to K' inich K' year Joy Chitam II . It is thus possible that this crowning marks a deviation of the dynastic line. K' inich Ahkal Mo' Nab' III arrived certainly at the capacity after having spent the years to operate and forge political alliances. The city was with the hands of this ajaw , then of his/her son and his nephew until the end of the century. One has little information over this time. Inter alia events one knows just that Toniná was always on the war footing. In this city Hiéroglyphes reporting were discovered a new defeat of Palenque.
The abandonment of Palenque
B' akaal was always the target various attacks during VIIIe century, in the same manner as the other Maya cities of the traditional era. Wak Kini Janaab' Pakal , so known under the name of Pacal IV seized the power into 799 and then, one loses any trace of the dynasty of Palenque. Shortly after the year 800, no new construction was undertaken in the ceremonial center. With the beginning of IXe century B' akaal held a sizeable and influential position in the area. In spite of that, the emigration and the abandonment had already started. Lakam ha was still inhabited by some generations which were devoted to agriculture, but the places were abandoned gradually, as the forest recovered them. In XVIe century the area was almost uninhabited.
Temple of the inscriptions. It acts of the temple which overhangs the pyramid with degrees which is on the Eastern side. It holds this name of the three panels of rock, located inside the temple, which comprise hieroglyphic inscriptions. These hiéroglyphes reports in detail the history of the dynasty reigning on the city and the important facts of Pacal the large one. This structure is decorated reliefs in stucco. Inside the temple, a flagstone recovers steps which go down in the middle of the pyramid and, in two flights, lead to the funerary crypt of Pacal. The Sarcophagus, the flagstone which seals it and the walls of the crypt are decorated low-reliefs which illustrate, inter alia things, the death of Pacal and its descent in the inframonde, where it took the identity of the one of the twins who, in the Popol Vuh , overcame the Lords of the inframonde and reached immortality. Are also represented in these hiéroglyphes the origin of the ancestors of Pacal, as well as the celestial band and a series of Maya deities.
the Palate. More than one simple building, it acts of a complex of buildings connected to each other. They were built on an artificial terrace then reorganized and modified during four hundred years. It is located in the central part of the archeological site. Its name comes from the conjunction of patios, underpasses and the square tower which characterize it. One finds there sculptures and low-reliefs in stucco of a priceless artistic value.
the Groupe of the Cross comprises the Temple of the Cross , the Temple of the sun and the Temple of the leafy Cross . It is about a whole of temples which overhang pyramids with degrees, each one containing of the elaborate reliefs. These temples commemorate the accession with the throne of the Lord Chan Bahlum II , after the death of Pacal the large one. They show the new Lord receiving the size of the hands of its predecessor. The crosses to which the names of the temples refer, are actually representations of the tree of the creation which is in the center of the world according to Maya mythology. The Temple of the Cross preserved its cresteria , an openwork peak which crowns the structure. Inside was the central panel, now exposed to the Museo Nacional de Antropología (National museum of anthropology), which represents the god of the ground which makes push a corn ear. On flanked ear of two human silhouettes, is perched a fantastic bird. The Temple of the leafy Cross is now deprived of frontage, only a secondary passage was preserved there in its entirety.
Aqueduct. It acts of arched structure a three height meters which lead to the Otulum river while passing under the principal place of Palenque, in the section which corresponds to the Eastern frontage of the Palate. The aqueduct is supplemented by a stone bridge which spans water of the place that one calls " The bath of Reine" , in the extreme north of the principal group.
the Temple of the lion. It is located at 200 meters in the south of the principal group. It must are name with the finely engraved low-relief which represents a king sitting on a throne in the bicephalous shape of jaguar.
the Temple of the Count. It is Waldeck which named it thus. Indeed it is there that it remained at the time of its voyage in Palenque and inter alia extravagances, it liked to be made call Count (and sometimes Baron or Duke). This elegant building has a base with five degrees. In the upper part a temple is which preserved the totality of its original architectural elements.
Play of ball. Two parallel platforms constitute the structure making it possible to make a play of ball. Work of exploration and consolidation is still necessary.
Lords of Palenque
The following list indicates the Lords who controlled Palenque and their dates of reigns:
K' the U.K.B' alam I (March 11th, 431 - 435)
- " 11 Lapin" (nickname, also called Gasparín; its Maya name was not identified, August 10th, 435 - 487)
- B' utz Aj Sak Chiik (July 29th, 487 - 501)
- Ahkal Mo' Naab I (June 5th, 501 - December 1st, 524)
- K' year Joy Chitam I (February 25th, 529 - February 8th, 565)
- Ahkal Mo' Naab II (May 4th, 565 - July 23rd, 570)
- K' year B' alam I (April 8th, 572 - February 3rd, 583)
- Yohl Iknal (female sex) (583-604)
- Aj Ne' Ohl Mat (605-612)
- Pacal I (612)
- Sak K' the U.K. (female sex) (612-615)
- K' inich Janaab' Pakal (also known under the name of Pacal II, or Pacal the large one, 615-683)
- K' inich K' year B' alam II (also known under the name of Chan Bahlam II, 683-702)
- K' inich K' year Joy Chitam II (702-711)
- Xoc (regent of Kan-Joy Chitam II, 711? - Ca 722)
- K' inich Ahkal Mo' Naab III (also known under the name of Chaacal III, January 3rd, 722 - after 729)
- K' inich Janaab' Pakal (also known under the name of Pacal III, Ca 742)
- K' inich K' the U.K.B' alam II (March 8th, 765 -?)
- Wak Kimi Janhb' Pakal (also known under the name of Pacal IV, November 17th, 799 -?)
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