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2006 AD: The Maya ruins of Palenque, México

What started as a small farming hamlet in 100 BC went on to become the magnificent capital city Lakam Ha' of the Bakaal region roughly corresponding to modern-day Chiapas and Tabasco. Abandoned for reasons unknown in the ninth century it came under the attention of the Spanish in the late sixteenth century and was subsequently (re)named Palenque meaning 'fortified building'. To date at least 1,481 of those 'fortifications' have been identified and ongoing excavating work by a team of archaeologists has now carefully uncovered a mere but significant 5% of these.

 [click on an image for a larger view]

Despite long term aggression with the Snake Kingdom of Calakmul in the east and Toniná in the south, somehow the ancient city of Palenque must have found strength in its numerous defeats. Through a slow but steady territorial expansion it briefly managed to rise and shine in the seventh century. King K'inich Janaab' Pakal (Great-Sun Jaguar Shield) ruled from 615 when only twelve years old until his death in 683 when his son K'inich Kan B'ahlam II (Great-Sun Serpent Jaguar II) succeeded him at the age of 48 and reigned until his death 18 years later. Much to the envy of their enemies they transformed their city into a major regional power. A grand construction programme in this time included extensive water works, a palace with a tall watch tower and several pyramids and temples all of which were dedicated to kings and gods. This period of relative wealth did not last long: in 699 AD Palenque was overrun by Toniná and never was to recover.

Further reading: Mesoweb: An exploration of Mesoamerican Cultures and the Maya Exploration Center

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Published on 10.12.2006 by Sjaak van der Sar   –   Leave critique or other comments