Palenque – Pre-Columbian Mayan Pyramids In Chiapas Region

Ruiny Palenque
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Palenque in the Chiapas region

Immersed in a tropical forest, Palenque is situated right in front of the first mountains of the Chiapas region. The main part of the archaeological site consists of numerous pyramid-shaped temples surrounding a huge platform, the so-called Palace. All these buildings, covered with forests and wrapped in intense greenery, seem to be only dormant. Although the Maya disappeared from here hundreds of years ago, traces of their highly developed civilization are still visible.

Today, the Mayan civilization is considered the most interesting of the pre-Columbian civilizations of the Americas. The clearest difference to the others is their pacifist approach and reluctance to use weapons only in an emergency.

Temple of the Inscriptions
Temple of the Inscriptions shrouded in fog
The history of the Maya

The history of the Maya is now divided into three stages:
– Pre-Classic Period (2000 BC – 250 AD),
– Classic Period (250 AD – 900 AD),
– Post-Classic Period (900 AD – 1521 AD).

The Pre-Classic Period, about which little is known, was characterized by intensive agricultural development and the establishment of new villages in an increasing area. The peak of the Maya civilization development took place in the Classic Period, the so-called Old Mayan Empire. It was then that the Maya created an empire, not in a political or military sense, but in terms of cultural homogeneity, common language, and even costumes between different cities. Then, in a relatively short time, the Maya expanded into a much larger area.

Temple of the Cross
Temple of the Cross – on the highest pyramid in this part of Palenque
Mayan ceremonial centers

Between 320 and 435 AD The Maya established many ceremonial centers, including Tikal, Yaxchilán, Copán or Palenque. At this time, the Mayans of the Itza tribe also founded Chichén Itzá. The following centuries expanded the territory of the Maya, until their expansion stopped in the 9th century, and after 830 many cities were abandoned. The reasons for this are still unknown today. There are many hypotheses, but an armed invasion is ruled out. Other possible theories include land depletion and a great famine or epidemic, most likely malaria. The amazing fact is that by the 10th century most cities were abandoned and deserted, including Palenque.

The Post-Classic Period that followed brought the so-called Mayan Renaissance. The center of civilization moved from Guatemala to the Yucatan.

Lakamha - capital of King Pakal
Former capital of King Pakal – Lakamha
King Pakal’s capital city – Lakamha

In the Classic Period, Palenque was one of the most important Mayan cities. It was the capital of a powerful dynasty ruling the area of today’s states of Chiapas and Tabasco. The city’s original name was Lakamha, “place of great waters,” and the territory it controlled was known as B’aakal or “bone.” Most of the buildings that still exist today come from the period 615-800, when the city was ruled successively by 5 kings. The art of Palenque was intended to glorify kings.

Mayan pyramids

The tallest and most impressive building in Palenque is the so-called Temple of the Inscriptions. It was built during the 68-year reign of King Pakal (615-683), whose crypt is inside the pyramid.

Count's Temple at Palenque
Count’s Temple – owes its name to the eccentric count who lived in it in the 1830s.

East of the Temple of the Inscriptions there is a group of temples, the so-called Temples of the Cross, built in 692 by Pacal’s son and successor. The Temples of the Sun and the Cross are topped with an openwork stone crest. However, by far the largest building in Palenque is the palace complex, built on a 10-meter-high platform and measuring 100 by 80 m. This complex was built over 120 years. Inside the Palace, there is a 4-storey tower that probably once served as an astronomical observatory.

Where to look for Mayan ruins?

Today, Palenque is considered to be one of the most important archaeological sites in Mesoamerica. Former Mayan cities or ceremonial centers are dotted over a vast area, not only in Mexico, but also in Guatemala, Belize, Honduras and El Salvador. The Mayans left behind places like Palenque, familiar, but still shrouded in mystery. Certainly, other ruins are still waiting to be explored.

Youtube video

If you are interested, I also invite you to visit my YouTube channel. And here is a short film Palenque.


Photographs of Palenque

  • Palenque DSC 9251 mini
  • Lakamha - capital of King Pakal
  • Foggy Palenque
  • Temple of the Skull
  • Palenque DSC 8934 mini
  • Temple of the Inscriptions
  • Huge palace complex at Palenque
  • Palenque DSC 8981 mini
  • Palenque DSC 8998 mini
  • Temple of the Cross
  • Temple of the Sun
  • Temple of the Foliated Cross
  • Temples of the Cross
  • Temples of the Cross
  • Palenque Palace
  • Ruiny Palenque
  • Mayan pyramid
  • Palace
  • Count's Temple
  • Northern Group
  • Palenque DSC 9275 mini
  • Temple of the Skull
  • Temple of the Inscriptions
  • Palenque DSC 9244 mini

If you like my photos, the story sounds interesting, or maybe I’ve inspired you to explore the world, feel free to like my page and leave a comment 🙂 or even visit my YouTube channel 🙂

Carly BB

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