Palenque (Unearthing Ancient Worlds)
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In the Jungle of Chiapas, Mexico, nestled on a thickly wooded ridge, are the ancient ruins of Palenque (pah-LEN-keh). Occupied for several hundred years, from 400 to 800 A.D, it represents the western regional variant of Classic Maya civilization. It is believed to be one of the most important cities of its day during the Mayan period. The hieroglyphic inscriptions found at Palenque were the inspiration for the modern epigraphic understanding of the ancient Maya writing system. These inscriptions tell the dynastic history of a series of rulers the most famous being Pakal, who is buried in a sarcophagus in a chamber below the Temple of the Inscriptions. The first European to visit the ruins and publish an account was Father Pedro Lorenzo de la Nada in 1567. Archaeologists estimate that only five percent of the total city has been uncovered.
left) surrounded by food and drink for the afterlife, while servants stack stones to seal the tomb. A priest in ceremonial dress (above right) recites prayers, and a captive is prepared for sacrifice. The dead nobleman’s widow in white robes and jade (top center), along with warriors and friends, attends the ceremony. reborn as an ancestor in the sky world. It was probably Chan Bahlum and other relatives who killed six young people and put the bodies in a stone box near Pakal’s coffin.
spend a lot of their time studying ancient Mayan ruins and hieroglyphs for the same reason. They all want to uncover the lost history of an ancient people and tell it to the world. This is what archaeology is all about. Mayan Glyphs Below are six copies of the same square with hieroglyphic writing. It is from one of the tablets in the Temple of the Inscriptions. In the first five squares, a different glyph is highlighted. Each glyph represents one or two syllables. The square helped scholars
seems near, another ship sails into view. When it gets close enough, Stephens calls out. The sailors on the ship, called the Helen Maria, pull Stephens, Catherwood, and their belongings aboard. The Helen Maria sails better in light winds. It takes them all the way to New York, where they land on July 31. STEPHENS WRITES A BEST SELLER The following spring, Stephens finishes writing a long book on his adventures with Catherwood. He calls it Incidents of Travel in Central STEPHENS TELLS THE W O
tomb of ancient Egypt’s King Tutankhamen inside a pyramid. The gold-filled tomb created a lot of excitement around the world. Ruz may have that famous discovery in the back of his mind, but he does not expect to dig up anything that dramatic. No one has ever found a tomb in a Mayan pyramid. Ruz is interested in the temple too. The temple has not been explored thoroughly since Stephens and Catherwood’s visit. It might contain some 32 P A L E N Q U E undiscovered sculptures or other interesting
work. He and his crew stay in the room from eleven o’clock in the morning until midnight. They photograph the richly dressed stucco people on the wall, whom Ruz believes are priests. And they measure the room, which is larger than most Mayan rooms. It is about 29 feet (8.8 m) long and 13 feet (4 m) wide. The arched ceiling is very high—about 23 feet (7 m) above the floor. Ruz spends most of his time in this room studying the great carved slab. He believes it is the top of an altar that was used