Palenque, in Southern Mexico, is absolutely one of the finest and most grand of the discovered Mayan cities. Although it is one of the smaller cities, it boasts the most spectacular ruins. The images are emotionally moving and we can only imagine how impressive it must have looked at the height of it's majestic power.
Palenque is home to the most impressive Mayan burial ever discovered. Lord Pacal, ruler of the city for 68 years, was found under the building called the Temple of Inscriptions. Pacal was one of the longest reigning rulers in history - of any country. He ascended the throne at age twelve and held it until he died at age 80. He died in the year 683 AD, and his son, Kan B'alam II, took over and also became one of the most impressive rulers in history.
Their city, to this day, is an archaeological treasure trove. Pacal's tomb is covered by a lid that has sparked "Ancient Astronaut" debates, although it also can be explained in conventional Mayan religious beliefs. It is, nevertheless, an amazing example of Mayan art and architecture no matter what side you believe.
Far from being "cavemen" or "savages", the Maya built sky-high concrete, stone and stucco buildings, that are barely eroded even after a thousand years. Their architecture is legend and pretty astounding. It's so impressive that even after centuries of decay they are in better condition than anything we could ever build right now, "at the height of modern civilization." Surely nothing we build in any of our cities today will be standing that proudly in 3oo years let alone a thousand.
The tops of these skyscrapers poke out of the forest canopy and are reported regularly by pilots although hardly any archaeological effort is put into them. Scarcely 1% or LESS of Mayan civilization has been unearthed. The magnificent cities we've uncovered so far may pale in comparison to what is still hidden deep in the jungles of Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and Mexico. Even today with GPS and modern technology we've hardly scratched the surface of the Central American jungles and there are plenty of areas that have yet to see a modern human being.
The Maya territory stretched far and wide. Ball courts have been found in Puerto Rico and evidence of Mayan peoples as far north as Illinois (Cahokia) and as far south as along the coast of Peru and even further. For all we know they may have sailed up the Delaware River. It's really not out of the realm of possibility considering they sailed up the Mississippi River. Columbus reported seeing a Mayan canoe that was hewn from one gigantic tree trunk and held more than 30 men and their cargo. Imagine!
One of the most fascinating aspects of the Maya was their star knowledge. Their Venusian calendar (the tracking of the planet Venus) is only .008% different from ours. With all of our high powered telescopes and modern computers, they a jungle people, considered primitives by many, were our equals in astrophysics. We are willing to bet the house that WE are the ones that are wrong and that .008% is correct. Seriously.
Also, equally fascinating is the fact that the Maya vanished from their cities virtually overnight. The cities were empty when the Conquistadors came and to this day, no one really knows what happened to the pre-Colombian Maya. There are Maya today living in modern Guatemala and they adhere to the old ways, but the "new" old ways. They don't speak the original dialect.
There are only four known Mayan books that still exist. The Mayan Codexes or Codices. The Spanish destroyed EVERY OTHER SINGLE TEXT, except these four.
One, the longest at 74 pages, resides in Dresden, Germany and is called the Dresden Codex. It its the earliest known written book from the Americas. "The Dresden Codex contains astronomical tables of outstanding accuracy. It is most famous for its Lunar Series and Venus table. The lunar series has intervals correlating with eclipses. The Venus Table correlates with the apparent movements of the planet. Contained in the codex are almanacs, astronomical and astrological tables, and religious references. The specific numen references have to do with a 260 day ritual count divided up in several ways. The Dresden Codex contains predictions for agriculturally-favorable timing. It has information on rainy seasons, floods, illness and medicine. It also seems to show conjunctions of constellations, planets and the Moon."
Enjoy these pictures of Palenque...
The Lid of Lord Pacal's tomb.