John Pohl, THE CODICES John Pohl's


PALENQUE  (circa A.D. 450-800)

Palenque is located in the state of Chiapas 95 miles north of San Cristóbal de las Casas but the most direct route to the site is through the city of Villahermosa, Tabasco. In contrast to Tikal’s massive necropolis created by dynasts seeking to magnify their own accomplishments over those of their ancestors, Palenque conveys an intimate portrait of Maya lords possessed of a subtle, but no less sophisticated sensitivity in their patronage of palace art and architecture.

Image - Temple of the Inscriptions & Palace

Palenque has a long and colorful history of exploration, climaxing in 1952 with the opening of the tomb of the kingdom’s most illustrious king named Pakal or Lord Shield. A remarkable series of hieroglyphic decipherments by epigraphers, that continue this day, have revealed significant biographical details of the patriarch’s rule. Claiming to be the direct descendant of a god, Pakal began an ambitious building program around the middle of the seventh century at a time when Tikal, some 250 miles to the east, was struggling through a hiatus in power. First Pakal erected a lavishly painted central palace of long vaulted halls and then began the construction of his own sepulcre beneath the Temple of the Inscriptions. Click on Image for more detail.

Image - Pakal’s name glyph

The Oval Tablet in Building E of the palace portrays Pakal seated on a double-headed jaguar throne and receiving a crown from his mother Lady Zak’K’uk. Epigraphers have identified Pakal’s name glyph both as an ideograph signified by a shield, and as a compound of symbols for the phonetic spelling of the three syllables in his name. Click on Image for more detail.

Image - Temple of the Sun

When he died at the age of 80, Pakal was succeeded by his son Chan Balum, or Snake Jaguar, who continued his father’s ambitious dream to make Palenque the most influential Late Classic city state on the western Maya frontier. Chan Balum not only dedicated the great temple to his father’s memory, but placed monuments everywhere throughout the palace, as if to incorporate a sense of Pakal’s ever-present spirit in every daily acts and rituals of royal life. Chan Balum’s greatest addition to Palenque was the construction of the Cross Group southeast of the palace. Wishing to glorify his own rule, but not to overshadow the Temple of the Inscriptions dedicated to his father, Chan Balum designed and constructed three smaller structures that faced inwards onto a small plaza. These are now known as the Temple of the Cross, the Temple of the Foliated Cross, and the Temple of the Sun. Click on Image for more detail.

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