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Beautiful sculptures found in Mayan ruins of Palenque

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
July 6th, 2011
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Surrounded by lush jungle and raging waterfalls, the ancient Mayan ruins of Palenque is renowned for its sophisticated architecture and beautiful sculptures. Archaeologists estimate that only 35 percent of the city has been excavated so far, giving speculation as to what more treasures lie beneath the jungle's surface.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Palenque is five hours from San Cristobal by car or bus, and passes through lush mountain scenery. The ruins of Palenque are located about a mile from the city of the same name. Minibuses run between the city center and the ruins every 10 minutes between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m.

Palenque is widely regarded as the most atmospheric and impressive of Mexico's Mayan ruins. The ruins' monumental stone temples are noted for their architectural sophistication and fine sculptures.

People lived in this area as early as 300 BC, leaving behind pottery as evidence. It was during the Mayan Classic Period or 300-900 AD that Palenque became an important ceremonial center. The city reached its zenith around 600 to 700 AD, when most of the temples of Palenque were built by King Pakal and his son Chan-Bahlum.

Known to the Mayans as Lakam Ha, or "Big Water," Palenque was built surrounded by mountains, rushing waterfalls and a dense forest. Palenque, unlike other Mayan cities, enjoyed an abundance of water which was controlled by means of an elaborate aqueduct system.

The ruins of Palenque were first visited in 1773 by the brother of the canon of the cathedral in San Cristobal de las Casas. In 1786, the Spanish monarchy ordered that the site be thoroughly searched for gold and treasures, done with the help of locals with pickaxes that resulted in significant damage to the ruins.

The main temples have since been cleared, but the dense jungle still surrounds the site and covers unexcavated temples.

In 1952, the tomb of King Pakal was discovered deep within the temple. The crypt is unfortunately closed to the public, and much of the tomb has also been moved to Mexico City.

The crypt was accessed by a descending stone staircase, the entrance of which had been carefully hidden by the builders. The Temple of the Inscriptions seems to be the only temple in Mexico built specifically as a tomb.

To the right of the Temple of the Inscriptions is Temple 13, in which archaeologists discovered the burial of another important person, accompanied by an adult female and an adolescent. Some of the artifacts found here are displayed in the site museum.

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