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    Is This the Isthmus? Tour – Mexico Part 10

    Saturday, October 7, 2017
    Palenque Ruins, Mexico

    A side view of the Templo de las Inscripciones at the Palenque Ruins, Mexico.
    A side view of the Templo de las Inscripciones at the Palenque Ruins, Mexico.

    Late in the morning, I walked a couple of blocks west of the Yaxkin Hostel and stood on the main drag to wait for a mini-van heading to the Palenque Ruins, four miles west. It didn’t take long for one to show up. Once inside, I asked the driver how much the fare was, and he said 20. His buddy riding shotgun chimed in with, “dollars” and they both chuckled. I’ll admit I was a little worried they might be serious, because, as it turned out, I was the only passenger in the van the whole way. Imagine my relief when the driver accepted my 20 pesos when I got out.

    Two guys walk toward El Palacio at the Palenque Ruins, Mexico.
    Two guys walk toward El Palacio at the Palenque Ruins, Mexico.

    “Palenque was a Maya city-state in southern Mexico that flourished in the 7th century AD. The Palenque ruins date from circa 226 BC to circa 799 AD. After the city’s decline, it was absorbed into the jungle of cedar, mahogany, and sapodilla trees, but has since been excavated and restored to a famous archaeological site that attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors per year. The Palenque Ruins are located near the Usumacinta River in the Mexican state of Chiapas, about 130 kilometers (81 miles) south of Ciudad del Carmen, 150 meters above sea level.

    Some small buildings on top of El Palacio at the Palenque Ruins, Mexico.
    Some small buildings on top of El Palacio at the Palenque Ruins, Mexico.

    “Although Palenque is a medium-sized site that is much smaller than Tikal, Chichen Itza, or Copán, it contains some of the finest architecture, roof combs, sculpture, and bas-relief carvings that the Mayas ever produced. Much of the history of Palenque has been reconstructed from reading the hieroglyphic inscriptions on the many monuments; historians now have a long sequence of the ruling dynasty of Palenque in the 5th century and extensive knowledge of the city-state’s rivalry with other states such as Calakmul and Toniná.

    The Templo de las Inscripciones at the Palenque Ruins, Mexico.
    The Templo de las Inscripciones at the Palenque Ruins, Mexico.

    “The most famous ruler of Palenque was K’inich Janaab Pakal, or Pacal the Great, whose tomb has been found and excavated in the Templo de las Inscripciones. By 2005, the discovered area of the Palenque Ruins covered up to 2.5 km² (1 sqaure mile), but it is estimated that less than 10% of the total area of the city has been explored, leaving more than a thousand structures still covered by jungle.”–Wikipedia

    Some crumbling structures on top of El Palacio at the Palenque Ruins, Mexico.
    Some crumbling structures on top of El Palacio at the Palenque Ruins, Mexico.

    Waddling past the usual array of souvenir stalls, I made my way through the ticket booth, where I paid the totally reasonable $5.00 entry fee, and proceeded inside. Visible almost immediately was the massive Templo de las Inscripciones, looming over a sun-splashed grassy courtyard in the middle of the jungle. “Begun perhaps as early as 675 AD as the funerary monument of Hanab-Pakal, the Templo de las Inscripciones superstructure houses the second longest glyphic text known from the Maya world. (The longest is the Hieroglyphic Stairway at Copan.)

    “The Templo de las Inscripciones records approximately 180 years of the city’s history from the 4th through the 12th K’atun. The focal point of the narrative records K’inich Janaab’ Pakal’s K’atun period-ending rituals focused on the icons of the city’s patron deities, prosaically known collectively as the Palenque Triad or individually as GI, GII, and GIII. The pyramid measures 60 meters wide, 42.5 meters deep and 27.2 meters high. The summit temple measures 25.5 meters wide, 10.5 meters deep and 11.4 meters high. The largest stones, which were on top of the pyramid, weigh 12 to 15 tons.”–Wikipedia

    The Templo del Sol at the Palenque Ruins, Mexico.
    The Templo del Sol at the Palenque Ruins, Mexico.

    Next, I took a few steps over to the captivating crumbling ruins of the adjacent El Palacio, climbed the steep stone stairs to the top, and found a shady place to sit, rest and enjoy the view of the sunlit greenery down below. A minute later, some high school boys walked up and asked if they could interview me for a school project. I read aloud their list of questions and answered them verbally off the record, but had to decline getting interviewed on video, as I’m really quite camera shy.

    A view from the top of the Templo de la Cruz at the Palenque Ruins, Mexico.
    A view from the top of the Templo de la Cruz at the Palenque Ruins, Mexico.

    “Measuring 97 meters by 73 meters at its base, El Palacio is the largest building complex in Palenque. Containing several connected and adjacent buildings and courtyards, it was built by several generations of Mayans over a period of four centuries on a wide artificial terrace. Located in the center of the ancient city, it was used by the Mayan aristocracy for bureaucratic functions, entertainment, and ritualistic ceremonies.

    The Templo de la Cruz at the Palenque Ruins, Mexico.
    The Templo de la Cruz at the Palenque Ruins, Mexico.

    “Within El Palacio, the most unusual and recognizable feature is the four-story Observation Tower and the A-shaped Corbel arch, which is an architectural motif observed throughout the complex. Numerous sculptures and bas-relief carvings have also been conserved. El Palacio was also equipped with numerous large baths and saunas, which were supplied with fresh water by an intricate irrigation system. An aqueduct, constructed of great stone blocks with a three-meter-high vault, diverts the Otulum River to flow underneath the main plaza.”–Wikipedia

    A re-creation of a carving depicting Mayan royalty at the Palenque Ruins, Mexico.
    A re-creation of a carving depicting Mayan royalty at the Palenque Ruins, Mexico.

    Next, I made my over to the Templo de la Cruz, the Templo de la Sol, and the Templo de la Cruz Foliada, which are a “set of graceful temples atop step pyramids, each boasting an elaborately carved relief in the inner chamber depicting two figures presenting ritual objects and effigies to a central icon. Earlier interpretations had argued that the smaller figure was that of K’inich Janaab’ Pakal, while the larger figure was K’inich Kan B’ahlam.

    The Templo del Condi at the Palenque Ruins, Mexico.
    The Templo del Condi at the Palenque Ruins, Mexico.

    “However, it is now known based on a better understanding of the iconography and epigraphy that the central tablet depicts two images of Kan B’ahlam. The smaller figure shows K’inich Kan B’ahlam during a rite of passage ritual at the age of six, while the larger is of his accession to kingship at the age of 48. The cross-like images in two of the reliefs actually depict the tree of creation at the center of the world in Maya mythology.”–Wikipedia

    A huge tree in the jungle at the Palenque Ruins, Mexico.
    A huge tree in the jungle at the Palenque Ruins, Mexico.

    After passing by the Temple of the Count, I made my way out of the ruins via a wide, scenic stone pathway that snaked its way through the jungle–as well as up and down steep staircases–toward a museum at the north entrance. On the way, I stopped to admire some very beautiful waterfalls, gurgling moss-covered pools, ancient-looking trees and smaller temple ruins. Luckily, when I finally emerged from this paradisical path out onto the road, there was a shuttle van right there that I jumped into for a ride back into town.

    Words and photos ©2017 Arcane Candy.

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